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Immunization systems strengthening

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Successful immunization programmes rely on a sustainable and efficient supply chain of affordable vaccines of assured quality and its delivery through a reliable cold chain system. Vaccines are temperature-sensitive products that require storage between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. However, many African countries do not have adequate and optimally decentralized facilities for vaccine cold storage. This has partly hampered the scaling-up of new vaccine introduction.

Efficient vaccine management and logistics systems are of paramount importance. High vaccine quality must be maintained at every stage of the continuum between the vaccine production plant and the ultimate point of administration. The consequences of interrupting the cold chain system can result in financial loss due to damaged vaccines, and the continued spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Technical and financial support has been provided to countries through:

  • advice on vaccine procurement systems
  • building capacity for vaccine forecasting at national, provincial and district levels
  • establishing sound cold chain systems and effective vaccine management.

Computerized tools for efficient vaccine forecasting and management have been developed and are now in use in the WHO African Region.

Health Care Waste Management is a key component of health logistics. Poor management of injection-related waste exposes patients, health care workers and other health care waste handlers, as well as members of the community, to potential infections, toxic effects and injury. Additionally, post-immunization waste can be harmful to the environment. An estimated 23 million people become infected each year with life-threatening diseases such as HIV and hepatitis (B and C) due to improper sterilization and inadequate waste disposal practices.

African countries are therefore working towards better ways of managing health care waste by developing protocols, guidelines and training materials for all involved in waste management at both national and subnational levels. The WHO Regional Office for Africa is providing technical and financial support to countries in respect of two principal objectives:

  • development and adoption of a national policy on health care waste management
  • finalization of an ad hoc national strategy and plan of action to implement this policy.

Increasing the capacity of staff at all levels is essential for the optimal delivery of immunization services. Policy-makers, managers and preservice training institutions need to ensure that a health workforce sufficient in numbers, well educated and trained, adequately deployed and motivated is available to provide immunization services of good quality.