By Lois Privor-Dumm

It’s not often that themes for meetings are really meaningful, but the RISE (Results, Innovation, Sustainability and Equity) theme of the GAVI Partners’ Forum last week in Tanzania really rang true to the work that is being done. I felt proud to be a part of the progress being made and for IVAC’s role in advancing the four RISE principles. 

Lois Privor-Dumm

Lois Privor-Dumm, MIBS

For example, last week IVAC had the opportunity to continue progress on an ongoing project related to supply chain and decision-making innovation by following up with many partners who attended a primary container roundtable we organized in May 2012 where we reviewed the available evidence on vaccine containers and developed a framework for improving decision making. Building on the discussions from that meeting, we met at the Forum to review an exercise of the HERMES (Highly Extensible Resource for Modeling Supply-chains) modeling system that Bruce Lee and his team from University of Pittsburgh conducted in Benin along with in-country partners including AMP. Colleagues from GAVI, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, WHO, John Snow, Inc., Clinton Health Access Initiative, manufacturers and others joined us at the crack of dawn to review the results of the Benin pilot and provide feedback on the exercise. 

On the surface, decisions about which type of vaccine container to use don’t seem that complicated, but implications are far reaching. We discussed the more obvious implications including changes in procurement, logistics costs and cold chain space, which are relatively well understood. We also took the conversation a bit further, looking at the effects of vaccine hesitancy and availability on coverage. For example, if a health center has large vial sizes and only one or two children are scheduled to visit that day, a health worker may hesitate to open a new vial, thus missing a vaccination opportunity and reducing coverage. On the other hand, if the health worker does open the vial, the rest of the vaccine may be wasted, which could reduce vaccine availability for children who visit the center in the future. The complexities of these decisions become clear after a closer look.

We also discussed the safety considerations that come into play, particularly with new products coming down the pike. We agreed on the importance of bringing visibility to competing tradeoffs to ultimately help countries, donors and manufacturers make better decisions. Highlighting the impact of container decisions can help countries evaluate and consider other options for their cold chain, as well as appreciate the impact that various policies to minimize waste or lower cost might have on how many vials are opened and how many children are vaccinated.

Moving Toward an Optimal Container

Diagram of an optimal vaccine container.

It was a productive meeting, and I look forward to our joint commitment to find solutions to complicated issues and focus more on the system and how it impacts our ultimate results. Better decisions will lead to better product availability, guidance for manufacturers regarding country needs, better policies and more efficient systems. The process may be labor intensive at first, but the investment into getting it right and reframing how decisions are made can pay off multifold.

Lois Privor-Dumm, MIBS, is Director of Alliances and Information at IVAC. She oversees IVAC’s advocacy and communications efforts, large country programs, and special initiatives such as the primary container project.