Fix­ing weak links in vac­cine chain

Weekly Trust - - News - Judd-Leonard Okafor Out in the field, a vac­ci­na­tor tal­lies up the vac­cine vials used for measles im­mu­ni­sa­tion in As­aba, Delta. PHOTO:

Mil­lions of vials of vac­cine shipped into Nige­ria move from na­tional drug stores to re­gions, to stores in states, fur­ther down to lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas. They move through lo­cal im­mu­ni­sa­tion of­fi­cers down to vac­ci­na­tors. The chain length­ens and broad­ens as vac­ci­na­tors make their way across com­mu­ni­ties na­tion­wide.

Ex­am­ple, it was im­mu­ni­sa­tion morn­ing in 2018 and teams of vac­ci­na­tors were sent out across Delta State. Each lo­cal gov­ern­ment area was as­signed a six-mem­ber com­mand cen­tre that in­cluded a lo­cal im­mu­ni­sa­tion of­fi­cer, a co­or­di­na­tor of pri­mary health­care, a health ed­u­ca­tor, a dis­ease sur­veil­lance of­fi­cer and a malaria fo­cal per­son. They were to en­sure that all com­modi­ties and ma­te­ri­als needed for vac­ci­na­tion were picked up and stored for use.

The of­fi­cials met early and picked up sup­plies for their teams: measles vac­cine packed in ice­boxes, sy­ringes and nee­dles, cot­ton wool and methy­lated spirit. The of­fi­cers are the hu­mans in a “sup­ply chain” to get vac­cines to mil­lions of Nige­rian chil­dren.

The con­sen­sus is that the sup­ply chain for im­mu­ni­sa­tion in Nige­ria is in­ad­e­quate: the ma­te­ri­als, ac­tiv­i­ties, in­di­vid­u­als, struc­tures and the re­sources, is over­whelmed by an ever-in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion.

How­ever, in­ter­est­ingly, at­ten­tion has turned to the sup­ply chain and there is a bright fo­cus on the lead­ers and man­agers of the chain.

Global courier firm, UPS, and Gavi (the Vac­cine Al­liance), have de­vel­oped what they call Strate­gic Train­ing Ex­ec­u­tive Pro­gramme (STEP), that is hoped will pro­duce skilled and com­pe­tent in­di­vid­u­als to shore up the sup­ply chain for im­mu­ni­sa­tion in Nige­ria.

The Na­tional Pri­mary Health Care De­vel­op­ment Agency (NPHCDA) re­quested Gavi to have STEP im­ple­mented in Nige­ria.

A Deputy Di­rec­tor at NPHCDA, Chi­nenye Ekpe­mau­zor, after STEP on “What lead­er­ship is all about”, said “I have gained use­ful in­sight on how to be­come more strate­gic, ef­fi­cient and ac­count­able for my ac­tions in my or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

The Africa Re­source Cen­tre for Sup­ply Chain (ARC) ad­vo­cated for the rel­e­vance of STEP to de­ci­sion mak­ers in im­mu­ni­sa­tion.

Re­gional Di­rec­tor of ARC, Azuka Okeke, ex­plained that STEP pre­sented a unique op­por­tu­nity for coun­tries like Nige­ria to de­velop sup­ply chain lead­ers who would ad­vance trans­for­ma­tion in ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient im­mu­ni­sa­tion de­liv­ery.

Okeke said, “One of the key ar­eas of fo­cus of STEP in Nige­ria is build­ing strong lead­er­ship at na­tional and state gov­ern­ment lev­els that will drive own­er­ship of health pro­grammes be­yond vac­cine man­age­ment.”

The Gavi-spon­sored STEP is not re­stricted to Nige­ria. It is based on an aca­demic frame­work of pro­fes­sional com­pe­ten­cies ex­pected for sup­ply chain man­agers. It com­bines tra­di­tional learn­ing with on-the-job train­ing to help sup­ply chain lead­ers de­velop their “prob­lem­solv­ing skills and foster ef­fec­tive team­build­ing ap­proaches,” said Ma­gloire Achidi, Sup­ply-chain Con­sul­tant for Gavi.

The Vice Pres­i­dent of Mem­ber En­gage­ment at the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Whole­salers (IFPW) and one of the spon­sors of GAVI STEP train­ing, Ge­orge Bray, said, “Lead­ers bring peo­ple to­gether to tap their col­lec­tive wis­dom. When do­ing so, you must be pre­pared for dif­fer­ences of opin­ion and con­flict. Be­com­ing an ef­fec­tive ne­go­tia­tor can re­veal new op­por­tu­ni­ties, sharpen your fo­cus, sat­isfy your needs and im­prove your re­la­tion­ships.”

The Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Health and Safety at UPS, Kevin Et­ter, said, “Lead­er­ship is get­ting the work done through peo­ple. A leader sets di­rec­tion, mo­ti­vates and builds an in­spir­ing vi­sion, as well as cre­ates some­thing new. Lead­ers in­spire oth­ers, pos­sess de­ci­sion-mak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and should be fo­cused on the vi­sion to in­spire oth­ers to the over­all goal.”

A state Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Of­fi­cer in Niger State, Dr. Sa­muel Jiya, said, “One mea­sure of one’s suc­cess is the de­gree to which one builds up oth­ers who work with that in­di­vid­ual.

“Team ef­fec­tive­ness is achieved when there is a clear and com­pelling pur­pose, skills that are com­ple­men­tary and mu­tual ac­count­abil­ity. Every­body in a team is im­por­tant, and that is why we must sus­tain team re­la­tion­ship.”

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