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Intervention Spotlight: Supply Chain and Logistics Management

By Erika Amaya, Communications Associate, BID Initiative

Nov 25, 2015

Posted in

A nurse looks into a refrigerator checking vaccine and supplies stock.

A nurse checks on the vaccine stock in the refrigerator at the Usa River Health Center near Arusha, Tanzania. Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

How many pneumonia vaccines are left in storage? How many vaccines do we need for next month?

These might seem like simple questions, but for health facilities they represent central challenges. In Tanzania for instance, an electronic logistics management information system (eLMIS) is currently used to coordinate supplies of essential medicines, antiretrovirals, and other commodities, and medicines. However, the crucial missing piece is information about immunization-related supplies.

Complicating the problem is two-way communication between facilities and decision-makers. On top of limited visibility into stock, onerous paper record-keeping practices at facilities and inaccurate or unreliable data hamper the ability of immunization officers at every level of the immunization system to accurately inventory, distribute, and forecast vaccine stocks and supplies. In Tanzania and many other places, poor insight into stock levels can lead to stock outs, wastage, and improper distribution of supplies to meet the need.

To address these challenges, Tanzania is working with PATH and partners to incorporate immunization requirements into the existing eLMIS, which will help manage and monitor the vaccine supply chain more efficiently and effectively. Through a combination of paper and electronic methods, decision-makers can track stock, including antigens and related supplies, from national suppliers to the district distribution level, and on to individual facilities.

In addition, with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the BID Initiative is implementing barcode technology as part of an integrated stock management system. Barcoding allows a fast and accurate way to track stock (including details such as expiry date and lot numbers) throughout the system and provide real time or near real time data for better planning and logistics management. It will also enable district, provincial, and national managers to identify stock management issues and address them early.

While this work is underway, the electronic immunization registry developed by BID and partners provides an interim solution. Within the registry, in addition to information about the individual immunization records of children, there is also a stock management component. Once updates to the Tanzania’s eLMIS are complete, it will be connected to the immunization registry so both systems can sync stock levels and vaccine usage across the country.

With the integration of barcodes and more accessible, reliable data, deciding how many vaccines to order for next month should be as simple as clicking a few windows in one central system.

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