IFRC Global COVID-19 study: vaccine bank an ‘essential element’ of next pandemic response

Argentina Red Cross does outreach during COVID pandemic.

Argentine Red Cross does outreach during COVID pandemic.

Photo: Argentine Red Cross

Geneva/Panama City/Buenos Aires – 31st January 2024 

Governments need to prepare for the next pandemic by establishing an international ‘vaccine bank’ which ensures the availability and distribution of vaccines equitably in all regions of the world.

That’s the central recommendation of a new report following a huge study into the impact of COVID-19 and authorities’ reactions to it. The report is being released exactly four years on from the IFRC’s first Global COVID emergency appeal, on 31st January 2020.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) commissioned researchers from the Humanitarian Observatory, an IFRC reference centre hosted by the Argentine Red Cross, to carry out a major research project. For it, they’d carried out interviews with 16,027 people, working in collaboration with 90 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. 

People from different sectors were asked about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Strategic partners from the private sector and trade unions also collaborated in conducting the surveys.  

Participants were chosen to represent people working or active in six societal sectors - healthcare, academia/education, transport, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the corporate sector and the media.  The study looked for both common trends and contrasts across geographies and sectors. Its aim was to develop recommendations so that the next pandemic can be handled better than the last.   

The study – ‘Insights Gained by Strategic Sectors During the Pandemic’ – found: 

  • Nearly 70% of people in all sectors and regions had a high fear of catching COVID-19. People in the Americas and/or working in healthcare had the highest fear. 
  • More than half of all respondents said their personal finances were affected by the pandemic.   
  • 54% of participants interviewed said their government handled the pandemic well. The percentage was highest across Africa and lowest across the Americas.   
  • Almost half of all respondents working in healthcare and the media felt ‘discriminated against’ for the role they played during the pandemic.   
  • The vast majority of interviewees said they received no priority for vaccinations despite the important roles they played during the pandemic.   

The main recommendations of the report include: 

  • Creating a global vaccine and antidote bank to ensure the availability and distribution of supplies equitably in all regions. 
  • Establishing priorities for vaccination or delivery of medicines to those who enable the world's citizens to receive food, medical care, news and education. 
  • Carrying out a communication campaign from a supranational body that values the actions of the essential sectors to legitimise their tasks and recognize their work. 

José Scioli, Director of the Humanitarian Observatory of the Argentine Red Cross said: 

"Some of the answers to the main challenges require establishing efficient processes on a global scale. That is why it is so central to take these global lessons to ensure that we can all – as humanity as a whole - learn from our experience and emerge stronger. We are convinced that we are capable of learning from our past to improve the present and future. With the insights from the Humanitarian Observatory’s study, we can promote the exchange of information to improve our societies." 

Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General said: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to the biggest worldwide disruption to normal life in a generation. But its impacts were disproportionate. Often, for example, vaccines were distributed on the basis of money, not need. Those who contributed most to helping the vulnerable through the pandemic were too often treated the worst. This important study offers a path to handling the next pandemic better. Its ambition and scale means its recommendations carry weight. “  

The full report can be downloaded in English here, and from here via the ‘Descargar Informe’ link in Spanish, French and Arabic. 

There are downloadable graphics and animations to add to coverage here 

For more information or to set up an interview: [email protected]  

In Geneva: Andrew Thomas +41 76 367 65 87   

In Buenos Aires: Jose Scioli +54 911 64551193 

In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes +507 6999 3199 

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