Computer modelling reveals vaccination problems

Transportation of vaccines is a critical component for improving vaccination rates in low-income countries and warrants more attention, according to a computer simulation by the HERMES Logistics Modeling Team at the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC). The team recently reported their findings in the PLOS ONE online journal.

Each year, millions of dollars of potentially lifesaving vaccines fail to reach populations throughout the world. Most aid programs tend to focus more on purchasing vaccines or donating refrigerators and freezers to help ensure vaccine delivery. The computer simulation of the West African nation of Niger showed that improving transportation as well could improve vaccine availability among children and mothers from roughly 50 per cent to more than 90 per cent.

'The vaccine supply chain is a complex orchestra of people, facilities, equipment, vehicles, vaccines, and other products that needs to be coordinated to get vaccines from manufacturers to people,' explained Bruce Lee, associate professor of medicine and biomedical informatics at the University of Pittsburgh.

Lee is scientific lead for the logistics modeling team developing HERMES (Highly Extensible Resource for Modeling Supply Chains), which allows users rapidly to create a simulation model of any vaccine distribution system or supply chain. HERMES includes virtual representations of every component and process in a country’s vaccine supply chain, including virtual trucks, motorbikes and people.

'For many decades, coordinating the vaccine supply chain has been a challenge anywhere, and a particular challenge in lower-income countries,' Lee said.

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