A Georgia Tech study examined current U.S. flu vaccine distribution logistics and discovered an update was needed.
Pinar Keskinocak, the researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology who co-led a recent study that compared the current approach with a proposed allocation method realized many more lives could be saved in a pandemic or similarly intense influenza outbreak that taxes vaccine supplies.
The recommendations that were spurred by the study apply to
According to Georgia Tech, this tweak in the supply chain could also save thousands of lives annually in regular flu seasons in the U.S.
“Even seasonal flu kills thousands to tens of thousands of people each year, so we would benefit immediately,” said Keskinocak, William W. George Chair
How it Works
When a pandemic or busy flu season hits, vaccine stocks become taxed and vaccine supply may become limited, even though it will catch up over time. In that case, vaccine distributors tend to take what is called the “population-based approach.”
“Areas with larger populations get more vaccine, proportional to the population. It’s a straightforward approach that seems fair,” said Julie Swann, co-principal investigator,
As more vaccine becomes available over time, restocking follows the same principle. This is where the team’s distribution logic comes in. In some regions, few people get vaccinated, but under population-based allocation, resupply stocks go there anyway and can go to waste, all while restocking falls short of demand elsewhere, where people are lining up for the vaccine.
As a result, those who want a vaccination might not get one even though there is enough being produced. These additional unvaccinated people are more likely to get the flu and also spread it to others, raising the likelihood of further outbreak.
This means there are vaccines that are going to waste, which drains medical finances.
“Production, storage, and delivery of vaccine are costly, and unused inventory can’t just be thrown away. It costs money to dispose of,” said Keskinocak.
The research shows that leftover inventory could be slashed to about 20% of current
“The data would tell you where you need continued education about the importance of vaccination, and some of the money saved from unnecessary resupplying could be invested in public health campaigns,” said Swann, who collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the 2009-10 H1N1 Swine flu pandemic.
This data is currently missing
“Surprisingly few states have systems in place that tell them how much vaccine has been administered where and how much is still left in inventory at provider locations,” said Swann.
The team’s solution is simple: restock doses where they are actually being used.