Last week, UNICEF hosted a meeting where experts with a combined 1,000 years of practice in cold chain maintenance discussed some of the current challenges and opportunities related to cold chain maintenance and temperature monitoring at the country level. This blog highlights some of the key themes that came out of the meeting.
Ultimately, preparing for outbreaks begins long before the first case and must entail a strong routine immunization system that provides vaccinations to all target groups, regular communication and education of the public, regular upskilling of health workers, strong surveillance, prepositioning and stockpiling vaccines and appropriate medicines.
Immunization supply chains managers should be thinking about how to use new technology and innovative ideas to deliver more product, faster, and at a lower cost. We aren’t looking for Amazon Prime and delivery in an hour (although that would be nice). What is needed, though, is a reliable and efficient supply chain system that guarantees that all children can be immunized.
Sometimes, simpler solutions like paper cards are more efficient and usable than technology – particularly where they are needed most and where mobile services, electricity, the internet, and computers are not reliably available. Also, often the paper cards – when their value is emphasized and understood – can “live on” longer than the ever-changing and limited archival storage of electronic systems. A combination of both can be very effective.
It takes commitment at all levels – from global, country and community levels to individual health workers and families – to ensure that vaccination works so that vaccines can work.
In recent years, the world of immunization has been dominated by a focus on life-saving vaccines and the prevention of individual diseases. The global community has launched what is being called the “Decade of Vaccines.” Not a week goes by without a major medical journal publishing articles with exciting news on the development, efficacy, value, supply, and financing of new vaccines.