Vaccine security requires the guaranteed production of vaccines, secures multi-year allocations for vaccine financing, the development of long-term forecasting of vaccine requirements and helps reduce wastage.
Vaccine purchasing has become increasingly complex in recent years as the market has changed. This is due to a growing divergence in the type of vaccines used in industrialized and developing countries. Industrialized countries generally buy more complex vaccines against a wide range of diseases. In contrast, developing countries tend to buy basic, good quality vaccines against the main childhood diseases. As markets have changed, some manufacturers have stopped production of the cheaper vaccines. Supply Division is working with current manufacturers to increase the availability of the basic vaccines used by UNICEF, and is working with potential new manufacturers around the world.
In January 2002, UNICEF alerted its Executive Board to a shortage of vaccines being experienced worldwide, due to significant changes that had taken place in the vaccine market. Since then, considerable progress has been made, in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other GAVI partners, such as the GAVI Fund (formerly the Vaccine Fund). Forecasting, which is done on a five year rolling basis, has increased in accuracy. With a 100% response rate from countries, forecasting procurement assists in ensuring that vaccine production meets the organization's needs, and provides UNICEF with leverage to negotiate reduced prices from manufacturers.
Enhanced vaccine security does come at a cost. For measles vaccine in the 2004-2006 period, 20 per cent of the projected $92 million cost was attributable to ensuring multiple sources of supply are used. However, such price increases are essential in order to avoid a monopoly. At the same time, vaccine prices in general are increasing. Supply Division has worked closely with countries and regional offices, conducting activities such as vaccine security missions, in order to orient countries on the changing vaccine market and support them in the development of accurate forecasting and timely and reliable funding.
UNICEF has also received an increase in requests to help support middle-income countries with their procurement. Traditionally, these countries have been procuring on their own. However, due to changing market factors, many countries have experienced difficulties, and in some cases suffered stock-out situations because they were unable to finalize procurement of the quantities of vaccines needed, at the right time. Supply Division helped these countries continue self-procurement, and in exceptional circumstances procured vaccine on their behalf as a stop-gap measure. UNICEF expects this type of work to continue for the next few years as the vaccine market starts to re-stabilize.