Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog
03.28 2018

World Vaccine Congress: Q&A with Emily Bancroft

Reposted from World Vaccine Congress

What technology has had the biggest impact on vaccine supply chains over the last 10 years?

There is no ‘magic bullet’ that has revolutionized vaccine supply chains over the last ten years. Instead, a range of technologies working in concert with one another have contributed to more effective and efficient supply chains. Developments in cold chain technology, data gathering and analytics, and even in transportation have all had significant impacts on the availability of vaccines. These technologies all must work in-sync with each other to provide both the infrastructure and information needed to ensure vaccines are available where and when they are needed and in the right condition. We must also ensure these technologies are appropriate and available at all levels of the supply chain. As a global community, we have greatly improved the systems, infrastructure and financing to ensure sufficient vaccines reach low-resource countries, but the real impact comes when these technologies and systems work all the way down to the last mile as well.

What are the biggest challenges to ensuring that vaccine supply chains can cope with increased demand?

In order to ensure that vaccine supply chains can cope with increased demand, we must move beyond existing dogma and administrative systems in order to examine the system holistically to create flexible, responsive supply chains. The global immunization community has been highly successful at developing an initial supply chain design that worked across multiple geographies to bring vaccines to large portions of the population. These supply chains were built to meet countries where infrastructure was at the time, and to meet the needs of initial immunization campaigns. Over time, increased demand, increasing number of vaccines and increasing requirements in vaccine handling adds new pressures on the supply chain today. New technologies and new infrastructure allows countries to think differently about how to run their supply chains in ways that are flexible and can respond to the changing needs of their countries.

Our biggest challenge now is renewing focus on reaching the final 20% of children who do not have access to immunizations. The cost and complexity of reaching rural, underserved, or hard-to-reach communities will be greater than reaching the first 80%, so we must be efficient and thoughtful about our work. Redesigning and re-engineering supply chains must be done in a forward-looking manner to ensure these systems can address unanticipated developments in the future.

How will aspects of your talk or the talks of other presenters focus on these issues? 

As new technologies mature and more governments are looking to improve their vaccine delivery, collaboration and sharing is more important than ever. Hearing form our colleagues about their work, learning from each other across geographies, and forging new partnerships will amplify each individual organizations’ impact. Learning from and working with the private sector is a great source of inspiration and innovation, and there is still a lot of opportunity to build these relationships. I will be sharing the lessons VillageReach has learned over the last 17 years working on improving vaccine supply chains to ensure more children are immunized, and how our thinking and the tools we use to drive this work have changed over time.

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