Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

V3P Mechanism: Module 3 - Links to further information on vaccines

Vaccine procurement

WHO/Garry Smith

The procurement of vaccines is a complex process that requires specialized knowledge and application in order to ensure their quality, as well as their sustainable, adequate and timely supply. The procurement cycle and process includes a number of operations and steps starting from the identification of needs, selection of antigens and products, specific demand and delivery forecasts, tendering and contracting processes, to quality assurance, transport, importation/clearance, central storage, distribution, monitoring and evaluation. These and other components contribute to the access, supply and price of a vaccine.

Peculiarities of vaccines

Vaccines are highly sensitive and complex biological products that differ from solid-form pharmaceuticals and other health products in several ways. The manufacturing process of vaccines involves the manipulation of living organisms and inhibits significant risks of production failures. Depending on the type of vaccine, the manufacturing of vaccines can take between 6 and 24 months for the production of a single dose. The increase of production capacities can take between two and three years, whereas the construction of a new plant may take up to seven years to achieve full functionality.

Due to the biological nature of vaccines, there are no generic products as such, which is reflected in the high entry costs to manufacturers. There are only between one and five manufacturers for each specific product, with new vaccines often resulting in monopolies of supply. Therefore, predictability of demand is essential to ensure the timely delivery of vaccines and avoid “out-of-stock” scenarios.

Specific features such as the limited shelf life and temperature sensitivity of vaccines require careful stock and supply chain management that need to be taken into account during the entire procurement process.

Vaccines are in the most part government or donor funded, often with no official end user charge. They are mostly used for the prevention of disease and are administered to otherwise healthy individuals, most commonly children. The risks arising from poor quality vaccines are considerable, which is why quality should always be the overriding principle in vaccine procurement.

Best procurement practices

Different procurement methods can affect the price and timely access to vaccines and it is essential to develop strategies that meet the individual vaccine markets in order to achieve optimal results. Good procurement practices allow countries to accurately forecast, plan, finance, conduct and monitor their procurement systems.

Information about best procurement practices can be obtained from organisations such as UNICEF Supply Division, PAHO, WHO and the World Bank. These organisations have a significant number of years of practical experience and have implemented rigorous procurement procedures.

Web resources

The sources indicated below provide information on vaccine procurement and related issues, focusing on general recommendations and peculiarities of existing procurement mechanisms. Click on the buttons to learn more.

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