Vaccine and Pharmaceutical Supply Systems and Equipment

Supply system design

Eliminating bottlenecks and redundancies

PATH’s work with the World Health Organization (WHO) through project Optimize revealed many potentially transformative supply chain strategies that can enable the national governments of developing countries to cope with considerable increases in product volume. Three key strategies that emerged included:

  • Integration. By forging links across existing vaccine and pharmaceutical supply channels, public health programs may be able to reduce uncertainties and risks, achieve economies of scale, shorten delivery lead time, improve procurement processes, provide better incentives for health workers, and improve quality of service to patients. Visit our page on integrating supply chains to learn more »
  • Outsourcing. Alternatives exist to the “in-house” supply chain model in which governments assume full responsibility for their vaccine supply chains and logistics. In some cases, the delegation of logistics or maintenance responsibilities to specialized companies can help to lower costs and achieve higher levels of service. Visit our page on outsourcing key functions to learn more »
  • Regional distribution. The establishment of regional distribution centers has helped a number of countries to organize shipments from manufacturers and store health care products in a central warehouse prior to distributing them to neighboring countries as needed, helping to increase efficiencies and build economies of scale. Visit our page on regional distribution centers to learn more »

All of these strategies relate to the overarching design of supply systems and require support from the highest levels of the immunization program, if not the ministry of health itself. Many of the strategies are in practice in various countries throughout the world and have yielded useful insights about what works and how systems might be improved upon in different contexts.

Ongoing work on supply system design is being advanced by the joint immunization supply chain hub of WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund.