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Alumnus working towards eliminating vaccine-preventable diseases in Pakistan

Posted: 28 May 2021

Pakistan, Alumni, COVID-19, Impact,

Australia Awards alumnus Muhammad Mossavir Ahmed is working to provide access to COVID-19 vaccination and strengthen childhood immunisation services in Pakistan. He is contributing to this vital work in his role as a Donor Coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO).

As part of the core team working on COVID-19 response initiatives and advisory policies, Mossavir has been instrumental in successfully coordinating and negotiating with donors such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to mobilise resources that will strengthen immunisation services in Pakistan, particularly the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination. With the help of such proposals, negotiations and consultations with donors, Pakistan has been able to secure funding to purchase COVID-19 vaccines or procure vaccines free of cost.

“This will help immensely to vaccinate targeted populations against the COVID-19 virus in Pakistan,” Mossavir says of the support that has been secured. “Donors are also funding a significant portion of immunisation for another 11 vaccine-preventable diseases,” he adds. These diseases include tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles, rotavirus and influenza.

Importantly, Mossavir developed and submitted Pakistan’s successful application to become a donor-funded member of COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access), one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. As a COVAX member, Pakistan will receive COVID-19 vaccines for up to 20% of its population free of cost via the COVAX Facility (the global procurement mechanism of COVAX), which is coordinated by Gavi. Mossavir also worked on a request submitted to the COVAX Facility for support for cold chain equipment in Pakistan. Such equipment (including walk-in cold rooms, refrigerators, freezers, passive devices such as vaccine carriers and cold boxes, temperature monitoring devices, and spare parts) is used to keep vaccines at suitable temperatures during all stages of the storage and distribution chain.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free of charge for Pakistani citizens, who are able to access the vaccine at Adult Vaccination Counters in all provinces and federated areas across the country. Mossavir played an influential role in developing policies and standard operating procedures for these Vaccination Counters, which were established by the Government of Pakistan with support from WHO. He also developed the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 vaccinations, along with guidelines and standard operating procedures for the different COVID-19 vaccines that are available.

Mossavir at the WHO annual immunisation review meeting in March 2021

In addition to Mossavir’s recent efforts in COVID-19 vaccine coordination, he is closely involved in the country’s immunisation program to protect children against preventable diseases. “Every day there are hundreds of thousands of children in Pakistan who suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases,” he says. He aims to remain with WHO’s immunisation program to achieve 100% immunisation coverage in Pakistan—and then has his sights set on an even bigger objective: “My plan is to continue working with international and national stakeholders to mobilise resources for achieving universal immunisation coverage.”

To contribute to this ambition of universal immunisation coverage, Mossavir’s work involves a significant degree of coordination and negotiation with WHO’s donors and partners. “My work primarily revolves around donor coordination, donor relations, planning, partnership building and proposal development,” he says. “In addition to this, I have been also involved in research, policy analysis, monitoring and evaluation regarding immunisation services in Pakistan.”

Mossavir (left) during a joint data quality audit by WHO and partner organisations in May 2021

Mossavir completed a Master of Development Studies at the University of Melbourne in 2019 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. He believes his Australia Awards experience was integral to improving his professional, academic and personal life. “Through this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I was able to study in a well-reputed university, polishing my research, critical thinking and communication skills,” he says about his Scholarship experience.

“With the help of this Scholarship, I was also able to work for international organisations like the Australian Red Cross and UNICEF in an international setting,” he adds. “The diversity and interaction with students from across the globe enlightened me to think differently and innovatively. It has boosted my confidence and enabled me to connect with innovative and creative minds.”

This experience has contributed to Mossavir’s success in protecting the health of the people of Pakistan through equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine and childhood immunisation services.