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The SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute (SDGHI) is pleased to share the SDGHI Perspectives essay series, an online platform for writers in the global health community. The SDGHI Perspectives essay series is a collection of contributed essays from authors around the world, showcasing their distinctive viewpoints on pertinent global health topics of our time.

Following a year of global uncertainties, shifting national policies and unprecedented scientific breakthroughs, the inaugural theme for SDGHI Perspectives is COVID-19 A Year Later. The first essay series under this theme will delve into different dimensions of COVID-19 Vaccines in Southeast Asia (SEA), including issues related to vaccine supply, confidence, delivery, distribution and beyond.

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COVID-19 A Year Later: COVID-19 vaccines in Southeast Asia

Immunity passports: their implementation and practicality [click to read]

Fathum Mahamed, Market Researcher at Integral Research and MSc student in Clinical Neuroscience at Roehampton University

This essay is a student contribution and the author explores the notion of immunity passports as they are rapidly being considered and adopted by countries worldwide. The author places emphasis on countries in Asia that are paving the way for the use of immunity passports amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic. The essay outlines a set of criteria constructed for the validation of international immunity certificates as well as highlights broader issues that surround immunity passports, particularly from an ethical standpoint.

Supporting COVID-19 vaccination for People Living with Obesity [click to read]

Claudia Batz, Policy and Projects Coordinator, World Obesity Federation

Obesity is a chronic, relapsing disease that does not receive prioritisation commensurate with its prevalence and impact and is now rising fastest in emerging economies. Whilst it is recognised that obesity increases the likelihood of developing non-communicable disease, less acknowledged is that obesity increases the likelihood of mortality from infectious diseases. This has become clear in the global spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the resulting pandemic of COVID-19. With vaccinations on the rise and decision-makers making plans to re-open societies, this essay delves into regional challenges and differences in the United Kingdom vs Philippines, pertaining to COVID-19 vaccination uptake, and prioritisation for people living with obesity.

Enabling equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines: the role of intellectual property [click to read]

Amina Mahmood Islam, Deputy Director, Programme Development and Business Administration, SDGHI

This essay considers the legal frameworks for intellectual property rights in the context of enabling equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The arguments adopted weigh the value of protecting R&D investments against the principle of enabling health equity. While acknowledging that IP rights is just one piece of the puzzle, the author supports waiving IP rights in the context of this global emergency. 

Cold-chain facilities in Southeast Asia: Challenges and Opportunities [click to read]

Aanisah Khanzada, Project Management Analyst, National Crime Agency, UK and MPH graduate from Imperial College London (2019-2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of adequate cold-chain facilities for the successful implementation of vaccine strategies, as cold-chains are an integral part of expanding the provision of immunisation services. This essay seeks to compare cold-chain facilities in a number of Southeast Asian countries, while presenting common challenges and opportunities.  The region is diverse in terms of its economies, healthcare facilities, infrastructure, supply chains and cold-chain facilities, arguably leading to differences in the roll-out of vaccination campaigns across the region.

Leaving no one behind: Imperatives for Equity and Solidarity in COVID-19 vaccination programs [click to read]

Prof Nina T. Castillo-Carandang, Health Social Scientist and Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manilla

The Philippines ostensibly has had the longest lockdown in the world. This essay provides a snapshot of the country’s COVID-19 situation, the worsening socio-economic inequalities and its effect on the vaccination program for COVID-19. There is a continuing need to enforce public health measures given the currently limited vaccine rollout in the country. The author emphasises health equity and solidarity to empower marginalised groups and ensure that ‘No one is left behind’.

Readiness of Thailand National Immunization Program (NIP) for the Rollout of COVID-19 mass vaccination
Limwattanayingyong et al. [click to read]

Dr Attaya Limwattanayingyong, Senior Researcher, International Health Policy Program and Department of Disease Control (DDC), Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), Thailand

This essay sheds light on the rollout of COVID-19 mass vaccination in Thailand. The team of authors from the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand and other governmental health departments highlight a number of unique challenges as Thailand sets out for its’ largest ever immunisation campaign. They stress the importance of multisectoral involvement and ownership and present Thailand’s readiness plan through nine key elements ranging from policy and coordination, cold chain and logistics, monitoring and evaluation to evidence generation and knowledge management, among others.

​Routine childhood immunisation during COVID-19 in Southeast Asia: important as ever [click to read]

Dr Paul Pronyk, Visiting Professor and Deputy Director, Global Programmes and Research, SDGHI

This essay examines the effects of the COVID-pandemic on routine immunisation, with a focus on the ASEAN region addressing how children remain particularly vulnerable to COVID-19's indirect effects. The author highlights several factors that contribute to reductions in availability and access to immunisation services and underlines a number of immediate steps required to reduce child mortality from vaccine preventable diseases amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whither ASEAN regulatory agility and convergence in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? [click to read]

Prof John CW Lim, founding Executive Director of the Centre of Regulatory Excellence (CoRE) and Policy Core Lead, SDGHI

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a positive display of regulatory agility globally, regionally and nationally to facilitate the speedy development and emergency use authorisations of new diagnostics and vaccines.  This essay describes health products regulatory agility and regulatory convergence in the context of ASEAN, and the apparent challenge to convergence as a result of member states securing diverse COVID-19 vaccines for their own populations without a coordinated regional approach.  The author is of the view that in spite of this, the pandemic may in fact spur and reinforce regional regulatory convergence and cooperation going forward.

What we need more than COVID-19 vaccines [click to read]

Dr Susann Roth, Advisor and Chief of Knowledge Advisory Services Center, Asian Development Bank

Martina Merten, Public Health Journalist and Communication Expert, Freelance consultant at Asian Development Bank

Dr Matthias Helble, Senior Economist, Asian Development Bank

A discussion on what it takes to roll out COVID-19 vaccination programs in developing countries and how regional approaches are required to enhance transparency and surveillance of vaccination programs. The essay highlights that it takes more than vaccines to prevent, manage and respond to pandemics like COVID-19 and that we need to rethink how we invest in patient-centric care and address determinants of health in Asian countries.

A V(accine)-shaped recovery for Southeast Asia [click to read]

Dr Swee Kheng Khor, Independent Health Policies Specialist

On the need for SEA nations to overcome major technical hurdles, manage socio-political objectives and ensure equitable distribution as part of their vaccine response efforts. This essay stresses the importance of a coordinated response between national, regional and global actors for vaccine delivery and distribution despite the heterogeneity across the SEA region.


The views expressed by authors contributing to the essay series are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of SDGHI.