A lot of attention is currently being paid to immunization supply chains (iSC) and how to improve their performance in order to absorb new vaccine introductions and leverage new technologies, all while being efficient and effective. It’s no small task. And generally, the conversation centers around the concrete components of the supply chain, such as cold chain equipment, shifting tasks to reduce the burden on health workers, or optimizing transport loops.
The one thing that is often left out of the iSC conversation is leadership and the political will to drive that change to have a more efficient supply chain that ensures every child gets those needed vaccines. As we have seen in Mozambique and in other countries, the importance of leadership and effective management cannot be underestimated.
… “leaders must be the driving force to define a new vision for the iSC and empower others to get behind that vision”
To advance the change to a streamlined, dynamic and data-driven system for the iSC, leaders must be the driving force to define a new vision for the iSC and empower others to get behind that vision to move it forward. They must be willing to question the status quo and be willing to motivate others around a common mission. This involves a shift away from a segmented focus on individual components, (i.e. new refrigerators) towards a more holistic approach that evaluates the performance of the iSC as a whole. This new policy paper, Change Leadership: The Making or Breaking of an Immunization Supply Chain, provides examples of that leadership for change, the enabling environment required to bolster that leadership, and its impact on effective management of the supply chain.
I’m not sure there is any one magic bullet of an immunization supply chain that will ensure vaccine availability at the health facility level, ensure the potency of vaccines, and do it in the most efficient way possible. However, I am convinced that none of that will happen if effective leadership is not in place. It’s time for leaders to stand up and insist on a better performing iSC. The evidence for “next-generation” immunization supply chains is clear. It’s our job, as practitioners, policy makers, implementers, and researchers to ensure leaders have and use this evidence to be effective advocates for change.