A multistakeholder approach in health-related studies is an upward trend. Patient groups engagement and involvement has particularly become important in vaccine research not only to ensure equity, accountability and transparency but also to develop partnerships and networks and to include their perspective and need into the analysis. DRIVE patient collaborator Active Citizenship Network (ACN) representative (read our introduction of ACN here!) took 15 minutes to answer some key questions on the impact of Covid-19 in their work and the importance of their involvement in a project such as DRIVE.

How has Covid-19 affected your work and the lives of your stakeholders?

From a citizen perspective, we can identify some key challenges. The situation during the first wave of the pandemic, when cancer & chronically ill patients were left almost alone, carried the risk of jeopardizing 20 years of improvement in prevention & care. With many vaccination centres closed, routine vaccination plans suspended, it indirectly sent the message that routine vaccination was not necessary, while it is the contrary: it is key, especially for vulnerable target groups, starting with chronically ill patients.

In Italy, according to our recent survey published 26th January 2022, the pandemic has extended the waiting list for adult vaccination. From March 2020 to December 2021, in 40% of the 147 vaccination centers monitored by Cittadinanzattiva, both opening hours and dedicated staff were reduced compared to the pre-pandemic situation.

Reflecting on the role of vaccine advocacy activities led by patient advocacy groups (PAGs), this is in large part not enough, and collaboration between key stakeholders and civil society organizations is not so common. What about the stakeholder engagement strategy put in place from both public and private sectors in order to reinforce the culture of the long-life immunization approach that is still lacking among the adult population?

Cittadinanzattiva-Active Citizenship Network (ACN) has undertaken more than 30 initiatives at national level to contribute to the difficult situation at the beginning of the pandemic, including an advocacy activity for patients with chronic condition and therapeutic plans; an advocacy activity for cancer and COVID-19 patients; an advocacy and solidarity activity for vulnerable target groups; the provision of concrete support to General Practitioners; an initiative focused on citizens’ empowerment; political proposals; local initiatives; updates for our constituency and the public; and civic monitoring.

Are there any particular vaccines that your work focuses on?

ACN’s commitment as a European network is to engage citizens and citizens’ associations and health stakeholders across Europe to better know and implement vaccination policies and to reflect together on problems and proposals.

In the last two years for example our vaccine-related projects focused to better contribute – starting from a citizens’ and healthcare stakeholders’ perspective – an understanding on the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on national immunization plans and to supporting the Covid-19 vaccination landscape, without forgetting routine immunization schedules and its gains. This year in particular the focus is on adult vaccination. See #VaccinAction 2022 and, more in general, The engagement of Cittadinanzattiva on vaccination at the national and at the EU level.

Is there a wider community interest in knowing vaccine effectiveness rates among the communities you serve?

Data on effectiveness are always welcome as instruments to talk with citizens.

What kind of impact would you foresee occurring if there was access to robust vaccine effectiveness estimates?

In general, more awareness on the value of vaccinations could result in an increased uptake.

This video demonstrates how DRIVE is governed and works; what value do you think could be gained through the partnership of the public sector and private partners?

We truly believe in the power of networking and of the multistakeholder approach: we mainly work in partnerships, and in fact joint efforts and an inclusive approach have always resulted in a winning strategy over the years.