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Vaccination access ‘key’ to tackling health inequalities

Vaccination access ‘key’ to tackling health inequalities
By Joanna Robertson
2 November 2023

Ensuring good access and information around vaccinations is ‘key’ to tackling health inequalities, director of market access and policy affairs at Moderna told delegates at a Westminster Health Forum this week.

Stuart Carroll, from the pharmaceutical company behind one of the Covid-19 jabs approved in 2021, also highlighted the importance of keeping ‘a very close eye’ on vaccination catch-up programmes amid dwindling routine jab uptake.

And he reported that discussions around a national vaccine strategy had been going well so far.

‘Multifaceted strategy’ needed on vaccination catch-up

Mr Carroll noted the particular importance of keeping ‘a very close eye’ on vaccination catch up programmes.

Routine vaccination take-up rates had already dipped pre-pandemic, which was then magnified due to the pandemic, he said.

And he added that a ‘multifaceted strategy’ was necessary to tackle the lower coverage rates.

Declining childhood immunisation rates have been a serious cause for concern in recent months, with the government issuing warnings around the risk of diseases faced by young people because of poor vaccination uptake.

In addition to information, communication and raising awareness, Mr Carroll also used his presentation at the forum this week to stress the importance of access and where vaccines were delivered.

‘Access, information [and] prioritisation are key because if we don’t do that, we’re going to see health inequalities expand, particularly in underserved communities and also in communities which [have] already, based on the evidence, got pretty poor health outcomes and that is a key consideration from a public health point of view,’ he said during the Westminster Health Forum event on life sciences.

Strong argument for dedicated vaccine budget

The Moderna director also said there was a ‘strong argument that we move towards having a dedicated vaccines budget’, with annual funding to encourage innovation in developing vaccines.

‘One salutary thing that’s happened on the back of the pandemic is that we’ve seen a stimulus in science and we’ve seen a positively exponential increase in industry pipelines,’ he told delegates.

‘In other words, we’re seeing significantly greater number of potential assets coming through pipelines.

‘And that’s exciting for public health, it’s exciting for healthcare more generally – what we need to do is make sure that the system is well set up to pull those innovations through so we can get them to the population and to patients as quickly as possible.’

He also suggested that the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) could become ‘an investment centre’ while retaining its independence.

‘Good discussions’ on national vaccine strategy

In May, senior NHS England official Dr Nikki Kanani confirmed that a national vaccine strategy, which will enable the delivery of an integrated approach to vaccinations, is expected to be published by the end of the year.

‘It’s pleasing to note that the government is looking to bring forward a vaccine strategy through the ABPI industry board… We have had some good discussions with government on that. And we look forward to that coming forward,’ Mr Carroll said.

He added: ‘I think there is a need here to reflect on the pandemic experience and make sure that we are pushing forward with the best possible approach to ensure that vaccination remains at the heart of how we’re approaching healthcare, and that we can deal with some of the challenges that have come from the pandemic.’

This story first appeared on our sister title, Nursing In Practice

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