Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog
07.17 2014

Shopping Around for Vaccine Supply Chains? Try it On.

How HERMES modeling tools allow decision-makers to see the impact of vaccine supply chain system changes- before they “buy.”

You may not think that the world of fashion relates to vaccine supply chains, but let me make the connection. When shopping for that perfect outfit, sweater or shoe- I can go to a store and try on all kinds of options—different sizes, styles, colors, and all combinations therein. And then, with a lot of help from my friends, I can pick the best option for that particular occasion.  When that purchase becomes outdated, worn out or just doesn’t fit anymore, this process can be repeated.

Along the same lines, vaccine supply chains need to be upgraded as new vaccines are introduced or new technologies become available that could bring efficiencies to distribution systems. Unfortunately, there is no supply chain store where a government can go to “try on” different systems to see if they fit properly. Trying different warehouse locations or transport loops, for example, is not as easy as trying on a dress. Yet making a change to a supply chain requires major system changes that no one would want to implement — without trying them out first.

That is why it is so exciting to see the work that the HERMES Logistics Modeling Team is doing with the Ministry of Health in Benin. Keeping with the metaphor, Benin is looking to upgrade its vaccine supply chain “wardrobe” – new vaccines are being introduced and the Ministry of Health is interested in finding efficiencies in distribution.

That is where the HERMES modeling activity has a role – as reported in the journal Vaccines. The HERMES computer modeling and simulation helped the Benin Ministry of Health evaluate different options of redesigning the vaccine supply chain. The modeling exercise looked at the current system, considered consolidating community warehouses, and examined the option of adjusting the national warehouses into a different configuration. The investigators also evaluated the effects of changing transportation routes.

This “virtual laboratory” for the vaccine supply chain identified the most cost-saving results coming from structural redesign and introducing transport loops to the vaccine supply chain. The modeling exercise estimated that the improved plan would save Benin over $500,000 in total costs over the next five years while improving vaccination rates.

As a global health advocate and program manager at VillageReach, I am most excited about the Benin experience because we can draw from it in our work with the Ministry of Health in Mozambique where leadership are using HERMES modeling to consider changes to the vaccine supply chain in order to bring efficiencies and improvements in coverage.  Together, we will be looking for the best “fit” in terms of evaluating system redesign options as new vaccines are introduced into the supply chain. The modeling exercise will consider many of the same issues as Benin: transport loops, different distributions strategies for different areas of the provinces, and inclusion of outreach activities.

Until a supply system “store” is available, a modeling exercise is the next best option. By sharing our learning in Mozambique and Benin, we help build a knowledge set that others can benefit and learn from, considering new approaches to system optimization of the vaccine supply chain. For more information on our work in Mozambique

About the Author: As Program Manager, Wendy Prosser is responsible for the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of health system program for VillageReach in Mozambique. Efforts in Mozambique seek to streamline vaccine logistics with an improved logistics management information system and transport services. Wendy has over a decade of global health experience in program development and management, research and analysis, capacity building, and behavior change communications. This experience has taken her to Mozambique, Malawi, Angola, Kenya, and South Africa in various public health settings, starting with Peace Corps in Cape Verde. Wendy holds a MPA in International Development and Global Health from the University of Washington.

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