Dr. Eka Paatashvili recently joined the Sustainable Immunization Financing (SIF) team as a Senior Program Officer (SPO).  She will be based in Tbilisi, Georgia and will be responsible for program activities in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Uzbekistan. A physician by training, Eka previously worked in the Georgia Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs in the areas of program management and procurement, finance and budget reform, and regulatory affairs. From there she earned an Executive Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse University, where her research compared the Georgian and American health care systems, and she developed effective paradigms of collaborative governance.

1. What are your responsibilities as the new Senior SPO for SIF?

I am responsible for raising awareness of immunizations and increasing the commitment of national governments in four SIF program Countries: Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan. I will work with national counterparts in each assigned country to analyze current immunization systems and organize collective action efforts for immunization financing. 

2. What is the significance of adding these new countries to the SIF portfolio? What are the implications for immunization coverage?

These four countries are scheduled to graduate from GAVI financial and technical support. So far, they have succeeded in immunization coverage. The SIF program will help these countries during the transition period and contribute to their readiness to graduate.   

3.How do you expect to affect change in these countries?

Resource tracking and budget allocation, vaccine quality and procurement, together with national capacity-building become common challenges for GAVI graduation countries. To that extent, continuous assessments of immunization system and effective advocacy activities encourage proactive decision-making and strengthen the ability of Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan to achieve country ownership and self-sufficiency in immunization.  

4. How are you uniquely positioned to advocate for these changes?

I believe, my knowledge and skills in health care policy and public administration as well as my awareness of cultural and sociopolitical characteristics of my SIF program countries will significantly help me in providing successful advocacy work and support countries in meeting their graduation benchmarks.

5. Why were you drawn to Sabin and how do you connect personally with the Sabin and SIF missions?

International collaboration for global health issues – that is where my personal concerns and the Sabin and SIF missions meet. After 13 years of working as a civil servant in Georgia, I am embracing this new challenge and a different role, working for an NGO to advise four GAVI-graduating candidates on their national immunization programs. I have taken an interest in how each of these post-Soviet countries has reformed their respective health care systems and provided public goods.

The Sustainable Immunization Financing (SIF) program, an initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is a vaccine advocacy program that helps countries find long-term, reliable financing for their national immunization programs. Active in 22 developing countries throughout Africa and Asia, SIF works with key national decision-makers and national counterparts to ensure they have adequate information to increase national investments in immunization and lessen dependency on outside donors and partners.