May 18th is known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. The significance of this day stems from years of research dedicated to finding a reliable way for individuals to be protected against the virus.
Research into HIV began shortly after the virus was discovered as being the cause of AIDS, with the first vaccine trial conducted in 1987. To this day, many clinical trials have been carried out, some with breakthrough results, yet no vaccine is shown to be fully efficient at protecting all individuals.
While people worldwide are infected with HIV, those living in sub-Saharan Africa have the highest rates, with Eswatini, Lesotho and Botswana being the three countries with the highest prevalence of the virus almost consistently between 2000 and 2020.
Without a reliable vaccine being available, reducing the risk of transmission by providing assistance and resources to countries that struggle with accessing them should be the main focus point in the battle against HIV.
In this piece, Shameet Thakkar (main image), founder of healthcare procurement services organisation Unimed, and a winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade gives us his expert opinion on the different factors that impact the effective delivery of vaccines and the power of prevention when it comes to global health crises such as HIV.
The importance of prevention
The above stats tell us that there are deep-rooted issues with individuals in certain countries being unable to limit their exposure to the risk factors that can lead to becoming infected with HIV.
In this regard, Shameet wants to highlight the importance of prevention. He said, “We need to focus on developing reliable preventative measures and services. By helping more individuals access vaccines and other forms of prevention such as contraception, we can solve the problem at the root and efficiently assist individuals affected by life-threatening illnesses.
What many don’t realise is that there is a lot that goes into supplying vaccines to populations or groups of individuals. There is an entire supply chain at the forefront of vaccine operations, which must provide the right equipment at the right time to be effective.”
Vaccines, therefore, play a fundamental role in prevention, but vaccine projects require a lot more than just syringes and the vaccines themselves. For vaccine delivery missions to be effective, they need to provide the right shipment services and equipment.
These programmes require appropriate ultra-low freezers, vaccine carriers, alcoholic wipes, sharps containers and immunisation cards, and even one item missing or being damaged could compromise the whole operation. That is why using effective procurement services is key.
Using the right equipment can have a life-changing impact. A vital example of this is auto-disable syringes, which play a vital role in prevention, as they are designed to lock after every use, making them non-reusable.
Given that sharing contaminated syringes or needles is one of the main ways individuals contract HIV, this type of equipment should be used as much as possible when administering any vaccine. It is a safe and effective way to save lives without accidentally contributing to the spread of HIV and other blood-borne viruses.
Reducing waste by using the right equipment
When it comes to providing medical services, reducing waste should be at the forefront of people’s minds. Considering the life-saving impact vaccines can have on preventing the spread of viruses such as HIV, wasting even a small amount of vaccine can be incredibly harmful.
This is where using the right equipment can make a difference. A relevant example is low dead-volume syringes, which can minimise waste by reducing the liquid left in a syringe after injection.
This equipment plays a vital role in increasing the number of people vaccinated, which is particularly relevant in the context of worldwide healthcare crises such as Covid-19, as the use of low dead-volume syringes was proven to increase Covid-19 vaccine supply by providing an extra dose per vial.
These syringes can also reduce the risk of spreading viruses like HIV due to the fact that less dead volume means there is less space for potentially contaminated blood to be left in the syringe.
Therefore, medical procurement services are crucial in the battle against viruses such as HIV, as medical professionals – and those in need of a vaccine – have to rely on these providers to deliver efficient equipment and develop the right solutions to distribute it, once ready.
In the context of distribution services, tracking performance KPIs such as OTIF (On Time in Full) can guarantee more control and efficiency in the delivery of products, helping organisations meet their targets effectively.
Maximising OTIF scores is then a great way to optimise operations and identify issues within a supply chain, potentially avoiding detrimental and wasteful time delays.
Thinking about the future
Unimed’s mission revolves around staying ahead of evolving healthcare industry requirements to be prepared to provide imminent aid to individuals globally as and when required, no matter the circumstances.
Although there is a long road ahead for medical researchers to develop a vaccine, HIV vaccine awareness day should be dedicated to recognising the vaccine development journey so far and the clinical trials that have brought us a step closer to our goal. Their sustainable procurement efforts will continue to be directed towards supporting research and contributing to the fight against global health issues such as HIV.
If your organisation requires ethically sourced healthcare and medical products or procurement services, get in touch to discuss your needs with Unimed Procurement Services.
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