by Bjorn Melgaard, Judy Roberts, Prashant Yadav, Anup Akkihal, Robert Steinglass, and Gisele Corrêa Miranda, Optimize Project Advisory Group members Following the 2013 TechNet Consultation in Dakar, Senegal, members of the Optimize Project Advisory Group (PAG) met for the last time to discuss progress made over the past five years and to learn about plans going forward as key areas of work on vaccine supply chains begin to transition to partners. Looking back The meeting began with a presentation by Optimize staff to summarize the results and achievements of the last five years. What became clear as the presentation unfolded was that many of the goals Optimize set out to achieve have now been realized. For example, new pathways to innovation have been established through the Vaccine Presentation and Packaging Advisory Group and through product-development “challenges” for cold chain manufacturers. These efforts have resulted in the development of new vaccine presentations and formulations, new cold chain equipment, and vaccination policies better suited to developing-country contexts. In addition, new equipment, information systems, technologies, and operational models have been demonstrated, generating case studies and evidence that are sorely needed in the field. Last, but not least, Optimize and its partners have successfully elevated the discussion of vaccine supply systems to the global stage, and consensus is beginning to emerge on the priorities for supply chain enhancements over the next decade. Looking forward To partially answer the question of what comes next, PAG members and relevant partners were invited to speak about their core competencies and plans for improving vaccine supply and logistics systems over the next five to ten years. These presentations are available for viewing and downloading on TechNet-21.org. Perhaps the most significant change in the supply chain landscape is the emergence of the GAVI Alliance as a major influencer in the area of vaccine supply chain and logistics work. As GAVI continues its work to introduce new and underused vaccines in eligible countries, it has pledged to develop a supply chain strategy by the end of 2013. This strategy will help clarify ways in which countries can solicit support from the Health Systems Strengthening funding window and how partners can provide tools and technical assistance to countries that are building more responsive and robust supply chains. The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have also started working together on a major project to help countries make informed operational and strategic decisions about their supply chain systems following Effective Vaccine Management assessments. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, too, will continue to help shape the global agenda in this area. Other nonprofit, government, academic, and industry partners, including PATH, Agence de Médecine Préventive, People that Deliver, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, John Snow Inc., the University of Pittsburgh, VillageReach, Logistimo, OpenLMIS, the Developing Countries Manufacturers Network, UNICEF, and WHO plan to continue and grow their work in specific areas of expertise, including vaccine products, supply system design, information systems, human resources, and equipment. In addition to work in specific technical domains, some organizations are also focusing their efforts in specific countries. Parting thoughts Clearly, the vaccine supply and logistics field is evolving with many competent partners eager to play a role in the future. The 2020 Global Vision for Vaccine Supply and Logistics Systems Action Plans may provide a starting point for partners as they determine where to direct their efforts. Questions still remain about how various partners can maintain the cohesion and momentum that was enabled by project Optimize. Importantly, there is no clear mechanism to hold institutions accountable and on track. Will major partners like WHO and UNICEF be able to support countries with limited staff? Will eligible national immunization programs be able to access support from GAVI’s Health System Strengthening funding window, and will they spend it on supply system strengthening? Will we see a major change in the way countries manage their vaccine supply systems? Or will countries default to minor repairs of what seems to be a broken system? The answers to these questions will become clearer in the coming years. In the meantime, the PAG wishes to congratulate project Optimize and its partners for strengthening global vaccine supply chains and sharing their insights over the past five years. The PAG also wishes success to those who will continue to work in this area over the next five years. On all counts, the work to improve vaccine supply systems is just beginning, and our collective success will be judged by the number of children that countries are able to immunize with an increasingly powerful set of vaccines.
TechNet-21 - Forum
This forum provides a place for members to ask questions, share experiences, coordinate activities, and discuss recent developments in immunization.
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