Determine the effects on the vaccine cold chain of making different types of World Health Organization (WHO) Expanded Program on Immunizations (EPI) vaccines thermostable.
Utilizing a detailed computational, discrete-event simulation model of the Niger vaccine supply chain, we simulated the impact of making different combinations of the six current EPI vaccines thermostable.
Making any EPI vaccine thermostable relieved existing supply chain bottlenecks (especially at the lowest levels), increased vaccine availability of all EPI vaccines, and decreased cold storage and transport capacity utilization. By far, the most substantial impact came from making the pentavalent vaccine thermostable, increasing its own vaccine availability from 87% to 97% and the vaccine availabilities of all other remaining non-thermostable EPI vaccines to over 93%. By contrast, making each of the other vaccines thermostable had considerably less effect on the remaining vaccines, failing to increase the vaccine availabilities of other vaccines to more than 89%. Making tetanus toxoid vaccine along with the pentavalent thermostable further increased the vaccine availability of all EPI vaccines by at least 1-2%.
Our study shows the potential benefits of making any of Niger's EPI vaccines thermostable and therefore supports further development of thermostable vaccines. Eliminating the need for refrigerators and freezers should not necessarily be the only benefit and goal of vaccine thermostability. Rather, making even a single vaccine (or some subset of the vaccines) thermostable could free up significant cold storage space for other vaccines, and thereby help alleviate supply chain bottlenecks that occur throughout the world.