COVID-19 vaccine policies set in the first 18 months of the pandemic initially ignored gender norms, roles, and relations as drivers of health outcomes. Our new report Gender and COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Development, developed with Global Health 50/50, The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), and The African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) provides a set of lessons from this process for including gender from the beginning and highlights the actions that can be taken to develop gender-inclusive vaccine policies into the future. Sex-disaggregated data is a key tool to enable vaccine policies informed by evidence as well as a mechanism ensuring that vaccine delivery is gender equitable.
“Gender-informed programming is key for health equity. And gender-disaggregated data should be non-negotiable in reporting” says Nina Schwalbe, Principal of Spark Street Advisors and one of the co-authors of the report.
The report summarises the experiences and reflections of 17 international and national COVID-19 vaccine policy experts interviewed in July 2021. Based on the interviews, it provides five recommendations to help improve existing COVID-19 vaccine policies as well as shape the development of new vaccine policies, including for other diseases: collect appropriate data and evidence; develop measurable goals; incentivize countries to provide sex-disaggregated data as part of routine reporting requirements; support inclusive policy-making; and avoid separate policies - incorporate gender guidance into existing policies.
The lessons apply as much to current COVID-19 policies as they do to future vaccine policies for other diseases.