by Mojtaba Haghgou, consultant, and Ramzi Ouichi, WHO A web-based version of the Vaccination Supply Stock Management (VSSM) tool has been successfully deployed in Iran. Now, project Optimize is collaborating with the Tunisian Ministry of Health to field-test wVSSM in Tunisia. VSSM is an open-source software application developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to enable immunization program managers and vaccine store staff to manage vaccines and related supplies. It is based on existing WHO and UNICEF policies on vaccine management, with consideration for common field practices in developing countries. Although the focus is on vaccines, the application can be used to manage health supplies, particularly those provided through primary health care services. First deployed in 2006, VSSM is now available in ten different languages and used by immunization programs in more than twenty countries. The web-based version of VSSM, named wVSSM, has all the features of the standalone version. Being web-based, wVSSM is simple to use and easy to access. Inventory data are stored on a central server that can be viewed by anyone with a wVSSM account, a computer, and a working Internet connection. Once connected, staff can view the total current stock of any item up to the country level. In 2009, the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education deployed VSSM in the national vaccine store and three regional stores. In early 2011, Iran moved from VSSM to wVSSM, starting at the national level and then going to the regional, provincial, and district levels. Today, all 6 regional, 46 provincial, and approximately 350 district stores in Iran are connected to wVSSM, and all vaccine stock management is done with wVSSM. (wVSSM has not been deployed below the district level). In November 2011, in collaboration with project Optimize, the Tunisian Ministry of Health began field-testing wVSSM in Tunisia. The goal of this testing was to demonstrate the benefits of moving away from a paper-based system to a computerized, networked information system that links national, regional, district, and health center levels. This will enable the exchange of real-time data on vaccine forecasting, stock management, and order status information, ensuring that the right quantities are distributed to the right place at the right time. It is expected that this ability to track and trace vaccines throughout the supply chain will reduce the risks of overstocking, expiry, and high vaccine wastage. As Tunisia begins to introduce new and more expensive vaccines, reducing these risks is becoming increasingly important. Although wVSSM is a comprehensive stock management solution, some modifications were needed to accommodate the local context in Tunisia. In particular, some Arabic and French text was modified to make it more easily understood by Tunisians. Relevant forms for ordering vaccines also needed to be added. Once the wVSSM tool was updated for use in Tunisia, over the course of 2011, the team conducted a series of induction and refresher workshops. In parallel with the training activities, the required computer hardware was purchased and installed. A wVSSM server was set up at the Informatics Centre of the Tunisian Ministry of Health in Tunis, and IT equipment such as computers and printers were installed at the ten pilot sites selected to use wVSSM. The team also worked to ensure that the pilot sites had the Internet connectivity required to communicate with the wVSSM server. In the three months since field-testing began, moving from a paper-based system to a computerized one has worked well, and health workers are pleased with the change. Currently, the national, regional, and district levels of the system have all been linked, and complete stock management information for vaccines can be seen in real time at each level. Although the initial experience has been positive, it has not been free of challenges. Without a reliable Internet connection, wVSSM cannot function. In the more remote areas of Tunisia, where connectivity cannot be guaranteed, this has made it difficult for health workers to use the new system. It has also taken time for health workers to adapt to the new tool. A demonstration version of wVSSM is available online. Contact Mojtaba Haghgou ([firstname.lastname@example.org]email@example.com[/email]) to receive a username and password. To comment, make sure you are logged in and click Reply.
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