By: Cyril Treacy, VP, Industry Advisors & COE at Salesforce
Even five months after the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered, worldwide vaccination efforts remain a constant news topic, especially in the face of new infection waves that are currently surging in India and other countries. Our hearts and minds go out to India and its people in this terrible acute crisis phase. It is a vivid reminder that developing safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 and distributing them fairly and equitably is the only way (and the most pressing challenge) to end this crisis.
In June 2020, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and other partners launched COVAX, a global alliance whose goal is to ensure that people in all corners of the world get access to COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of their wealth. COVAX will achieve this by supporting the research, development, and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, and also negotiating procurement and distribution for the 191 countries that have joined the alliance to date.
When it comes to COVAX, I like to think of it as a relay race against a deadly and mutating virus and the entire world depends on COVAX winning this race. CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, is the first runner who has funded the research and development of a portfolio of 12 vaccine candidates, beginning in January 2020. Gavi, the second runner, is managing the COVAX, securing billions of doses of COVID vaccines through agreements with manufacturers, and manages allocations of the doses with 191 participating countries. The third runner is the World Health Organization, which is, alongside CEPI and Gavi, a COVAX co-lead. And the fourth runner is UNICEF as the main vaccine delivery partner on the ground in many countries for the last mile to the patient’s arm.
“Our goal is to slow and stop the spread of the coronavirus, especially in this acute phase of the pandemic, and to allow people everywhere to have the vaccine protection they need to fend off the virus,” said Laura Boehner, chief technology and knowledge officer at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “We do that, not only because our mission is to help those countries but also because no one anywhere in the world is safe from the threat of COVID-19 until everyone is safe.”
COVAX supports the research, development, and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
One Platform as the Backbone of the COVAX Facility
In order to distribute vaccines at this scale and get them to some of the world’s poorest countries, Gavi needed a single source of truth to help them understand how many vaccines are needed and where. They needed a very secure portal for data exchange that all participating countries could use to communicate and share information, such as vaccine requirements and access reports, to match the needs of countries with the supplies that were being sourced.
“Salesforce indicated to us that they wanted to help us with COVAX, which led to the collaboration we announced in December 2020,” said Boehner. “The result was that Salesforce was building the country engagement platform on a pro bono basis. They are helping us refine and modernize our systems for the future, and together we are working on something that goes well beyond the technology backbone that serves the inner workings of the Gavi secretariat. Rather, we are building something that will also serve the countries participating in the COVAX facility. We’re doing that with the idea that it will evolve to meet the needs of all the users as those needs change.”
The Salesforce Professional Services team started in January 2021 to build the first iteration of the platform, first by identifying the immediate needs of the COVAX program, and then by exploring how Salesforce could support the program long term by looking at different aspects of the user journey. “The context was unprecedented for everyone involved, so we needed very short feedback loops to allow the team to refine the processes with the various stakeholders along the way,” said Nathan Jamin, project lead of the pro bono team.
In only five weeks of actual configuration, the pro bono team developed the solution that is based on Salesforce Experience Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud. Now, countries can use the platform to request vaccines and Gavi can get back to them through the platform to let them know how many doses of vaccines and of which vaccine type will be allocated in each allocation round. The countries can also keep track of the total amount of vaccine doses they have received overtime, add data about how many vaccines have been administered, and reallocate spare doses to another country.
By mid-May, more than 55 million doses had been shipped to more than 121 countries through COVAX. Powered by the country engagement platform, the initiative is well on its way to delivering at least two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021, including as much as 1.8 billion doses for 92 lower- and middle-income countries around the globe.
The initiative is well on its way to delivering at least two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.
The Next Step to Prevent Future Pandemics
Coming back to our relay race example from earlier: While the first race is still going on, CEPI has started a second race against mutations and future pandemics. They are looking beyond the current crisis and have developed a $3.5 billion plan to push the bounds of vaccine research and development (R&D) and to initiate a series of ambitious programmes to substantially reduce global epidemic and pandemic risk. The goals include compressing vaccine development timelines to 100 days, developing a universal vaccine against coronaviruses, and developing a library of prototype vaccines against viruses from the 25 viral families implicated in human disease so they can be quickly adapted if a new virus emerges. These programmes are part of a focussed R&D agenda to substantially reduce, or even eliminate, the risks posed by future outbreaks.
The pandemic has demonstrated that global cross-sector collaboration is crucial to face a crisis of this magnitude. Ending global pandemics will take the world’s leading governments, health authorities, corporates and nonprofits all working together, and the COVAX facility is a powerful example of how we can win this race, we all need to run faster as a team.
Learn more about how Gavi is helping more children across the world with life-saving vaccinations.
About the Author
VP, Industry Advisors & COE at Salesforce
Cyril is the international leader of the nonprofit and education strategic Industry Advisors at Salesforce.org. He leads a team of industry trailblazers, advising top customers on how to digitally transform using the Salesforce platform and industry solutions