Friday, 30 October 2015

Robust Supply Chains: Key enablers of life saving vaccines

Vaccines have been widely recognised as the backbone of the public health system. They help creating the first line of defence against contagious diseases, are highly cost effective and supposed to be available at every health facility in the world, to save lives.

But the vaccines are powerless if we can’t deliver them safely and efficiently to those who need them the most. This is where the importance of having a robust and efficient supply chain comes into play.
Below is a picture, illustrating some important clues to a strong immunization supply chain system.

Notice the cooler, the vaccine worker is carrying, which helps keeping the vaccines at just the right temperature after a long journey from the manufacturer to the health post. Also you can notice the health worker carrying her ledger to track the number of vaccines given and vials consumed. As defined by Vaccines Work, Supply chains are the human resources, technologies, and systems required to get vaccines safely and efficiently from the point of manufacture to the point of immunization without compromising potency or availability.

Present Status of Immunization Supply Chains

We have presently entered a new era for immunization. An era where diseases like cervical cancer, rotavirus diarrhoea and pneumonia can be prevented by using vaccines and the vaccines are available even at the poorest countries. And dozens of other vaccines targeted for different diseases is currently under the development pipeline waiting to address some of the world’s biggest health challenges. The growth is exciting but it adds pressure to the already stressed immunization supply chain.

The primary reason of the overtly stressed immunization supply chain is that these supply chains were designed nearly about 30 years ago, when immunization schedules were smaller and simpler, vaccines were less expensive, and immunization was primarily aimed at infants. But today, vaccines protect against twice as many diseases and also are administered to a much broader age group.

To manage today’s immunization programs, countries are starting to recognize the need to build stronger and much more efficient supply chains to meet the demand.

A peek at the next generation supply chain
  • According to Gavi’s immunization supply chain strategy (2014), the next generation supply chain should be built on five fundamentals:
  • Designed to optimize safety, reliability, and efficiency of immunization programs.
  •  Led by competent, professionally trained supply chain managers.
  • Use a continuous improvement approach for assessing, planning, and implementing supply chain changes over time.
  • Should consider collected data for decision making.
  • Should use, monitor, and maintain high-quality cooling equipment to ensure proper temperatures along the supply chain.

Efficient supply chains can have a significant effect on immunization programs, especially in low resource settings. While several countries are piloting new supply chain solutions, more political leadership is required before major, systematic changes can be made and scaled up.

Policies supporting the five fundamentals would bring about a major change for the better. By endorsing such initiatives we would be helping achieve the objectives of vaccines that is to improve health and save lives around the world.

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Hilleman Laboratories is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. Hilleman Labs acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic research and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Know More

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