As the world starts the largest vaccine roll-out against COVID-19, WHO and partners are helping countries to develop and implement Covid-19 vaccine Simulation Exercises (SimEx) to prepare for vaccine arrival and deployment. A recent commentary published in the Lancet Global Health, urges countries to use vaccine simulation exercises to test planning assumptions before national roll out starts. This will help countries prepare and to be ready to carry out unprecedented mass vaccination, including having procedures in place for national regulatory agencies to approve vaccines for emergency use; coordination systems between national regulatory agencies and import control entities; communication strategies to address rumours and misinformation to combat vaccine hesitancy; systems for the monitoring and management of adverse events following immunisation; and logistics and delivery systems for maintaining cold chains.
To ensure countries have the best chance of a successful COVID-19 vaccine deployment, WHO with COVAX partners have developed two COVID-19 vaccine-specific tabletop exercise simulation packages to test planning assumptions before national vaccine roll-out.
The first exercise focuses on regulatory and safety issues so that countries can test their regulatory frameworks and systems for granting the emergency approval of vaccines or exploring how they might rely on WHO's prequalification and emergency use listing, as well as procedures and oversight for monitoring vaccine safety after it is deployed. The participants could be from national regulatory agencies, medical standards and regulations agencies, and departments for monitoring the safety of new vaccines post-introduction. The second tabletop exercise focuses on strategy, supply chain, and communications to help countries identify the target populations and test vaccination strategies, manage supply chains, and prepare communication plans to promote vaccine acceptance and uptake. The participants could be decision-makers, logisticians, warehouse managers, freight services personnel, communication specialists, vaccinators, health promotion and behaviour change specialists, and community leaders. For both exercises, the participants will represent their actual roles and respond as if in a real situation.
The WHO COVID-19 SimEx packages should be adapted to the national conext and background and can be downloaded here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/training/simulation-exercise
The Lancet Vaccine SimEx commentary on the benefits and relevance of using vaccine exercises can be found here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(21)00051-6/fulltext