|Measles vaccines for an immunization campaign lay inside a ‘cold box’ that keeps vaccines at a constant low temperature to maintain their potency, here at the Ministry of Health’s Child Health Unit in Lusaka, Zambia.|
GOAL: UNICEF will ensure global vaccine and vitamin A supplies. Specifically, UNICEF will sustain an uninterrupted, long-term supply to low-income countries and low-middle-income countries through reliable forecasting and secure, stable funding.
For more than 50 years UNICEF has been supplying vaccines to the world’s children as part of global immunization and disease-control campaigns, beginning with BCG for childhood tuberculosis in the late 1940s.
UNICEF is a major supplier of vaccines for the campaigns to eradicate polio, eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus and to control measles. UNICEF also supplies vaccines for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), which is focussed on delivering new and underused vaccines to the poorest countries.
Most vaccines require one or two years to produce. To guarantee a steady supply of vaccines, it is critical that manufacturers have sufficient advance orders and assurances that there will be demand for their products. UNICEF has not been able to make long-term commitments to manufacturers in the past because funding from donor countries has been set year by year. Without such commitments, manufacturers can’t guarantee that production lines for inexpensive childhood vaccines will remain available.
In recent years, UNICEF has found it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for vaccines – both in terms of quantities and timing – and vaccine shortages are threatening to jeopardize immunization programmes. Changes in the market – mergers between large pharmaceutical companies and diverging vaccine usage among industrial and developing countries – have reduced the number of manufacturers that are producing traditional childhood vaccines. Many have stopped, or dramatically reduced, production of the older, inexpensive vaccines in order to produce newer, more profitable pharmaceuticals.
As the largest buyer of vaccines for the world’s poorest countries, UNICEF is taking several steps to avert a crisis and ensure the reliability of vaccine supply. First, UNICEF is trying to enter into more guaranteed procurement with major suppliers so they can plan ahead, confident that UNICEF will buy their vaccines. Secondly, UNICEF is appealing to donors to make long-term financial commitments for multi-year periods. Lastly, UNICEF is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to improve the planning, forecasting and management of vaccines once they reach their destinations.
For more details see the Immunization related pages on the UNICEF Supplies and Logistics website.