Global Vaccinations and the Digital Supply Network


With the winter upon us, flu season here, and children back to school, vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccinations currently prevent 2-3 million deaths a year. This number has the potential to almost double as government and non-government organizations work to globalize current offerings and introduce new and more effective vaccines to the market. While tremendous progress has been made to eliminate infectious diseases, there are still parts of the world that are not reached or reached in time for impact. The vaccine supply chain will play a crucial role in extending the benefit of immunization to all corners of the globe.

Per the World Health Organization, the role of the vaccine supply chain is to ensure the delivery of quality vaccines from the manufacturer to the health center where it will be administered to a patient. Vaccines must be delivered at the right time, place, and in the right condition for it to benefit patients. Ultimately an optimized supply chain would remove obstacles in the delivery pathway during:

  • Vaccine storage, handling, and stock management
  • Temperature monitoring
  • Logistics management

Pharmaceutical companies are busy developing innovative vaccinations to meet world population needs, but are taxed with the ability to develop these drugs quickly and effectively while meeting compliance regulations. WHO prioritized meeting these challenges of newer, faster availability of these vaccines in their Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), which set out to increase the availability of vaccinations throughout the world to help prevent death and illness.

Developing countries where public health infrastructure, access to reliable energy sources, and means of communication are weakest, are still facing serious challenges in their vaccine supply and logistics systems. Bottlenecks occur during transportation that threatens vaccine availability and quality.

Digital Supply Networks that connect the demand with the supply process across the channels of distribution can help. Integration with cold chain technologies and real-time responsiveness can help ensure that vaccines are being sourced, stored, maintained, and delivered at the right time in the right place to the right people. This technology when integrated with National Health Registries through data feeds can enable immunization information systems with more timely decision-making with competent and empowered personnel.

There have been some successes using Digital Supply Networks in this area such as:

  • Albania used an immunization information system to manage vaccination registration, inventory levels, cold chain management, and immunization follow-up. The system was deployed throughout the country starting in 2013. Albania also developed reports covering the remote temperature monitoring in refrigerated equipment, such as reefer trucks.
  • Vietnam developed a vaccine track & trace system that tracks lots of vaccinations throughout numerous provinces in the country. They also piloted an immunization registry to keep track of patients and their immunizations. The plan is to expand both the track & trace and registry on a national basis.

Digital Supply Networks can resolve some basic issues that address national programs having no visibility over vaccine stock balances beyond the central stores. Or knowing how much vaccine ends up being wasted, or current cold chain capacity. From an inventory perspective visibility into stock outs at lower levels. Digital Supply Networks can help by identifying vaccine consumption rates to assist in accurate forecasting and distribution planning and stock balances to correct overstocking and understocking situations. Using a Digital Supply Network connected to Internet of Things (IoT) sensor devices can provide real-time monitoring and feedback of temperatures in refrigerators to identify under-performing equipment or persistent cold chain breaks.

The speed at which innovation is bringing new vaccines to the globe and the scalability capabilities of today’s Digital Supply Networks is a way to bring future success to ongoing and future global immunization programs. The enablement of, drug manufacturers to connect to their supply chain partners to share information and better collaborate is a win-win for all.