The welcome news in 2021 of viable vaccines to prevent COVID-19 also underscored the deep inequities in our global health security system, as richer countries hoarded vaccines, while people in poorer countries were unable to access either vaccines or health care. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated globally, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation allocated more than $20 million to support public health infrastructure for more effective, equitable vaccine distribution, and urgent help for communities most affected by the crisis.
In May 2021, communities where the Foundation has worked for more than 20 years in northern India experienced one of the world’s worst surges in daily COVID-19 infections and were in urgent need of medical supplies, including oxygen concentrators. In June, isolated areas in Indonesia faced a rapid spike in the Delta variant. Meanwhile, the African continent was receiving less than 3% of the global vaccine supply and undocumented communities at the U.S.-Mexico border lived with increased vulnerability to COVID-19 infections due to limited access to vaccines, as well as information about vaccines.
The Foundation’s funding focused on the following three areas of response:
Vaccine Availability and Readiness
The Foundation made grants totaling $13 million to build vaccine infrastructure and support distribution in Africa, India, and Indonesia, and make vaccines available to individuals who are undocumented and living along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Amref Health Africa, in partnership with the African Union Centers for Disease Control (CDC), received funding to increase the availability of vaccines and information about vaccine efficacy and safety. The Africa CDC also helped strengthen five regional collaborating centers. They are focused on identifying needs, coordinating activities, providing information and expertise, and building capacity to improve the pandemic response and readiness for other public health challenges, including new COVID-19 variants.
In India, Foundation funding supported Project Concern International’s community outreach of accurate information about the effectiveness and availability of COVID-19 vaccines for people in the rural, northern state of Bihar.
In Indonesia, Foundation funding helped make vaccines available for Indigenous and forest-dwelling communities who are often not reached by health services. In addition to increasing vaccine availability, funding supported the delivery of oxygen concentrators to isolated areas, helped build the capacity for grantees to work and fundraise virtually, and supported staff and their families who lost loved ones to the pandemic.
A grant was provided to the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership to support its work with a health and wellness outreach program conducted at the Mexican Consular network, Ventanilla de Salud, to ensure vaccines and accurate information about vaccines are available to the undocumented community.
For more than 20 years, the Packard Foundation has worked with partners in India’s state of Bihar to address the region’s reproductive health disparities. As communities were battered by the second and third waves of the pandemic in 2021, the Foundation provided $3.5 million in grants to strengthen essential treatment and care throughout Bihar.
The Foundation’s funding included support for PATH to strengthen COVID-19 treatment and care at 20 non-governmental healthcare facilities along the region’s northern border with Nepal. Here, communities experienced a high incidence of COVID-19 infection with limited healthcare capacity. This funding also supported frontline workers providing home-based care and referrals to doctors through telemedicine, making it possible for those with restricted mobility to receive medical counsel.
In addition to meeting urgent health needs and improving vaccine availability, the Foundation provided $1 million in grants to support global campaigns advocating for more equitable vaccine distribution and to strengthen preparedness for future global health threats. This includes support for the ONE Campaign’s advocacy initiative to scale the global supply of safe vaccines for more equitable distribution and improve global resilience to future pandemics. Funding to Panorama Global is helping ensure the world is better prepared for continued impacts of COVID-19 and emerging infectious disease threats. This work strengthens global health security and improves vaccine confidence through targeted education, advocacy, and communications.
The pandemic has made clear the stark inequities in vaccine access and health care systems that result in communities being left behind or overlooked with devastating consequences. As the continued emergence of new variants underscores, the pandemic is a global problem that requires solutions that reach everyone.
As the world nears the third year of the pandemic, the Foundation will continue to examine where and how funding can address the complex, evolving challenges COVID-19 poses to communities around the world. Additionally, the Foundation continues to deepen its work on racial justice and equity to address systemic inequities that prevent people from accessing essential treatment and care.
To learn more about the Packard Foundation’s response to COVID-19, please visit packard.org/our-response-to-coronavirus.