Poland’s vaccination finance decision-making process is being scrutinised by a specialised team of experts, comparing their methodology to European standards and identifying areas for improvement.

The expert team issued detailed guidance based on a 2021 comprehensive analysis of European vaccination introduction systems, which revealed significant disparities among member states. Poland is grappling with prolonged wait times for organising publicly funded immunisation programmes.

“We waited 12 years for vaccinations against rotavirus and 15 years for HPV. These are alarming records,” said Professor Marcin Czech, a President of the Polish Pharmacoeconomic Society, during a press conference a few weeks back presenting the analysis’s results.

Despite this disheartening reality, Professor Czech expressed cautious optimism, stating, “Fortunately, we are moving in the right direction, and we are seeing changes for the better.”

Key areas for improvement

The analysis pinpointed key areas requiring improvement, including inclusivity, timeliness, coherence, and transparency.

Inclusivity entails considering opinions from various experts and stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive decision-making process. Timeliness necessitates establishing clear time frames for decision-making, ensuring prompt action.

Coherence is noted as essential for maintaining consistency in strategies and approaches across all facets of vaccination programs. Transparency plays a crucial role in fostering accountability and public trust by making decision-making processes accessible and understandable.

“Based on these four criteria, we closely scrutinised the decision-making process and the formulation of strategies, which should be grounded in societal needs and available preventive solutions,” Czech explained.

Improved decision-making processes

In response to the identified shortcomings, several strategies have been put forward.

Professor Jacek Wysocki, President of the Polish Society of Vaccinology, emphasised the significance of horizon scanning, which involves an early analysis of emerging vaccines to assess their suitability for the local epidemiological landscape.

“This proactive approach enables healthcare authorities to anticipate vaccine needs and plan accordingly, minimising delays in vaccine availability”, he said.

Professor Ernest Kuchar, from the Department of Paediatrics at Warsaw Medical University, shed light on the initiation process of vaccine availability.

Opaque and unfamiliar processes

He highlighted a major reason for delays in vaccine reimbursement – the opaque and often unfamiliar process of initiating vaccine availability. “Currently, this process is solely within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, which may face constraints due to its myriad responsibilities,” he said.

Professor Kuchar proposed a more inclusive approach, suggesting that institutions such as national consultations, scientific societies, patient organisations, and vaccine producers should be empowered to initiate the process of vaccine availability. By involving a broader spectrum of stakeholders, this approach could streamline the process and expedite vaccine access for the population.

Professor Ewa Augustynowicz, in her capacity as the chairwoman of the Vaccination Committee at the Ministry of Health, addressed critical aspects of its functioning.

She emphasised the pressing need for improvement, particularly in strengthening organisational and expert resources across the board and ensuring transparency in decision-making processes.

Need for transparency

Augustynowicz underscored the detrimental consequences of the current lack of transparency, noting that much of the committee’s work remains undisclosed to the public.

“Only the outcomes approved by the Ministry of Health are made public through official statements, leaving significant gaps in transparency and accountability within the committee’s operations,” she added.

Michał Byliniak, Director-General of The Employers’ Union of Innovative Pharmaceutical Companies (INFARMA), which represents vaccine producers, emphasised the industry’s commitment to supporting the vaccine accessibility process through innovative approaches.

He told Euractiv that the role of the pharmaceutical industry is to support the process of making vaccines available on many levels.

Byliniak commented: “We should think comprehensively about how to implement new vaccinations, how to effectively convince patients to get vaccinated, and how to shorten the time to make vaccines available. It is worth approaching this innovatively, differently than the paths that have been trodden so far.”

Vaccination programs serve as fundamental pillars of public health initiatives dedicated to safeguarding populations from preventable diseases.

As the debate drew to a close, the expert team announced that these documents will be distributed to key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, with the primary objective of improving the efficiency of decision-making processes regarding the funding of protective vaccinations from public sources.

The goal is to ensure the best possible outcomes for Polish patients, promoting their health and well-being through accessible and timely vaccination initiatives.

[By Paulina Mozolewska, Edited by Vasiliki Angouridi, Brian Maguire | Euractiv’s Advocacy Lab]

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