The rationale behind stockpiling pediatric vaccines is to reduce the impact of shortages. Vaccine supply interruptions can prevent children from receiving a full course of vaccinations, which increases the risk of disease outbreaks. In the United States, a national pediatric vaccine stockpile is used to mitigate the impact of such potential vaccine supply interruptions.
While planning the vaccine stockpiles, public health authorities must consider preventing shortages and factors such as immunization coverage needed and limited budgets to purchase vaccines. To address the multifaceted dilemma of managing vaccine safety stocks, three university researchers developed a framework to determine optimal levels of pediatric vaccine stockpiles.
Ruben Proano of Rochester Institute of Technology and Sheldon Jacobson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, both industrial engineers, worked with Janet Jokela, a specialist in public health and infectious diseases at the University of Illinois, to develop the new framework.
According to the research team, deciding how many pediatric vaccine doses to have on hand over a prescribed time period varies. Proano explains that since vaccines are typically produced in large batches, many factors such as a limited number of vaccine manufacturers, the lengthy development process and certain government controls make the supply of vaccines vulnerable. The researchers were able to provide a systemic structure for public health decision-makers.
“By determining the stockpile levels of pediatric vaccines we are solving a problem of health care delivery,” says Proano, assistant professor in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. His model determines vaccine stockpile levels by applying multi-attribute utility theory to integrate the relative morbidity and mortality of pediatric diseases, budget constraints and the uncertain nature of vaccine supply interruptions. The resulting model is then solved using operations research methods as a prescriptive mathematical optimization problem, he adds.
“In my research I am interested in applying optimization methods to making the supply chain of vaccines much more robust,” says Proano. “In theory, we should decide how much to stockpile based on the actual coverage level of a particular vaccine. This study provides a guideline, a framework, to help decision-makers reach those conclusions.”
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