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Increasing Efficiency with Barcode Technology in Tanzania

By Dr. Henry Mwanyika, Tanzania Director, BID Initiative

Nov 21, 2014

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Photo credit: PATH/Wendy Stone

In 2010, PATH set out to identify how low income countries could benefit from using barcode technology to improve the efficiency of the vaccine supply chain. Successful national immunization programs rely on well-functioning logistics systems to deliver the right quantity of the vaccine to the right location at the right time. By increasing the availability and use of standardized data located on all levels of vaccine packaging and linking the data to supply chain and vaccine management decisions, Ministries of Health could achieve safer vaccine supplies and more efficient immunization programs.

PATH determined that the use of barcode technology as part of an integrated stock management system could track stock by lot numbers from manufacturers to a service delivery point. Armed with accurate information, immunization and vaccine officers could make evidence-based decisions to correctly allocate stock and avoid wastage. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, expressed interest in the project and agreed to support the development and testing of a proof of principle in Tanzania in December 2013. PATH worked with UNICEF, WHO, GS1, vaccine manufacturers, and the Tanzania Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), to collaboratively document requirements for a system to track the vaccine supply from the vaccine manufacturer to point of immunization delivery.

PATH gathered and documented requirements from Tanzania and presented them at the Better Immunization Data (BID) Initiative meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda in May, 2014, to kick off the BID Learning Network (BLN). As part of the BLN, delegates from 13 different African countries as well as international partners provided feedback on interventions that would be tested in demonstration countries, Tanzania and Zambia, to ensure that the strategies developed would be relevant and useful for all BLN member countries.

PATH aligned resources from the BID Initiative with investments from Gavi to develop a working proof of principle that would be tested in the Arusha region in Tanzania. The team would test the prototype while gathering feedback and produce preliminary guidance required by multi-lateral partners, manufacturers, and countries to better understand the costs and potential benefits of deploying the system at scale. The prototype included both hardware and software which was tested in two districts of Arusha, coupled with user guides to train regional immunization and vaccine officers (RIVO) and district immunization and vaccine officers (DIVO). A proposal is in the process of being submitted to Gavi to move forward and scale in Tanzania to 33 regions and 167 districts with 6,000 facilities.

In addition to supply chain barcodes, the BID Initiative will test whether placing a barcode on a child immunization card could help to improve the speed and ease with which health workers can retrieve patient information. Stay tuned as we provide updates on both the vaccine supply barcodes as well as the immunization card barcodes.

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