Islamabad -  Landmark steps have been taken to revamp storage, supply and management of vaccine for the children after the unfortunate incident of vaccine wastage.

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulation & Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar at a press briefing informed that major reforms in vaccine supply and management have been taken.

In February this year vaccine worth about $3.7 million, donated by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), got spoilt due to lack of proper temperature. A fact-finding inquiry was instituted immediately and stern action was taken where it was found that there was negligence by some officials. The entire team from top to bottom has been removed, the minister informed. Officials of international organizations who were working with the local staff at the cold storage have also been repatriated to their respective organizations. Two officials were immediately suspended after the incident and more heads are about to be rolled out as the inquiry is still underway.

According to information, the inquiry has recommended the removal of Dr Saveeta Vankwani, deputy programme manager of Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) who is the wife of MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar. Federal Investigation Agency also investigation the matter, the minister said.

A fresh team was assigned the task of complete revamp of the entire system. This team was mainly assisted by USAID through deliver project. “That adversity converted into an opportunity for us to take a closer look at the deficiencies and inadequacies and completely revamp the vaccine storage and management system to make it state-of-the-art and at par with internationally accepted standards,” she maintained.

“We validated vaccine data of Pakistan that can be accessed from anywhere in the world through web based LMIS system. Moreover, EPI operations can be monitored online. International good practices including GS 1 Barcoding, scanning, and stock sufficiency are being managed and monitored on daily basis,” she said.

She said 30 supply chain experts worked on the average 10 hours/day for 40 days and introduced GS 1 barcoding and scanning to validate quantities of vaccines and ancillary products in the cold rooms, freezers and dry stores and putting data online in the vLMIS system to optimise stock management. Federal EPI with the assistance of partners like USAID Deliver  has developed five policy and operational level documents which will be used for compliance at the EPI. Fluctuation in temperature would automatically ring alarm bells and alert the monitors of the cold storage, she said.

She thanked the USAID Deliver Pakistan for quickly providing support to reform the federal EPI cold rooms and dry stores which includes warehouse equipment, scanners, computers, security cameras, safety equipment, EPI hotline & video conferencing capability with the provincial EPI programs for strengthening routine immunisation services and capacity building on LMIS systems.

To cater the urgent need for human resource, the ministry has advertised 49 vacant positions. Once hired these officials will be provided training on the best practices being followed internationally, she said. Procedures of receipts, storage and issuance/transportation of vaccine are now being brought at par with international protocols and SOPs. Physical count, inventory management and re-arrangement of vaccines as per batch number, expiry date & VVM is being carried out.  Complete operationalisation of LMIS ensuring real-time data visibility, quality & accountability.  She said the vaccine logistics manuals have been developed according to international standards. Upgrading and renovation of stores at Federal EPI is underway, including safety measures, electric repairs and maintenance of all equipment. Revision of SOPs and job descriptions is being done to ensure improved inventory management through full operationalisation of LMIS.

She said a state-of-the-art LMIS operations room is being established at Federal EPI which will work as a nerve-centre for dissemination. The Federal EPI is preparing a transition plan whereby capacity building of the staff being recruited by the Ministry shall be ensured. Completion timeframe of reforms is three months, which will be followed by the reforms in provincial EPI stores. Implementation of best warehousing practices is being ensured. All of these reforms are expected to improve vaccine management, governance and accountability to serve Pakistani children better and prevent them from vaccine preventable diseases, she hoped.