Panama, 20 October 2023 (PAHO) - More than 200 cold chain, supply chain, logistics, and immunization professionals from around the world gathered 16-19 October in Panama City for the 17th TechNet Conference to discuss advances in new technologies, tools, and innovations in cold chain, supply and logistics management and operations, as well as immunization practices and policies.
The opening of the conference was attended by PAHO/WHO Representative in Panama, Ana Rivière-Cinnamond; PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa (via video); WHO Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Kate O'Brien (via video); UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Garry Conille; and the Director General of Health of the Ministry of Health of Panama, Melva Cruz.
The TechNet conference is a global network of cold chain, supply chain, logistics and immunization professionals founded in 1989 with the aim of improving logistics systems and cold chain and supply chain operations with the implementation of new technologies and tools that support immunization services in all countries. It also takes advantage of the exchange of experiences between countries to learn about new developments in these areas. Every two years, it brings together representatives from academia, international cooperation, governments, among other actors.
"It was in 2006, 17 years ago, that our Region hosted for the last time this relevant Conference, which has sought, since its establishment, to promote joint work so that all people have equitable access to vaccines," said Dr. Jarbas Barbosa in his opening speech transmitted by video. "Sustained work and investment are needed in national immunization programs that allow them to have the latest technology infrastructure, tools, and equipment as needs evolve, and with solid vaccine distribution as a platform to increase vaccination coverage and reach the most remote communities in a timely manner," said Dr. Barbosa.
"The efforts of the countries of the Americas to increase vaccination coverage in the Region are still insufficient, as there are still children, adolescents, and adults without access to vaccination," he said. Dr. Daniel Salas, executive manager of PAHO's Special Program for Comprehensive Immunization (CIM) in his participation in the event said that the Region has 83% coverage of the third dose of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3); "in 2021 we had 81% coverage for this vaccine, which is an indicator of immunization coverage.
This is not common for the Americas, we must continue working together to achieve 90% or 95%, which is our goal," he added. The conference agenda focused on the seven strategic priorities of the Immunization Agenda 2030: immunization programs for primary health care and universal health coverage; engagement and demand; coverage and equity; life course and integration; outbreaks and emergencies; supply and sustainability; research and innovation. It also emphasized issues related to both the vaccine supply chain and the delivery of immunization services.
Ministries of health share lessons learned on the cold chain
Health authorities from Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Chile, Guyana, and Nicaragua presented topics in different sessions on: "Challenges and solutions for the cold chain,” “strengthening the cold chain,” and “lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic." Representatives from these countries shared their experiences on the introduction of new technologies for the storage, transport, and temperature traceability of COVID-19 vaccines, training of healthcare personnel, including the use of ultra-low temperature equipment and updating inventories of cold chain equipment at all levels, as well as strengthening the information system.
The PAHO experience
Dr. Daniel Salas shared during the panel discussion "Immunization programs that leave no one behind" that, to increase vaccine coverage in the Americas Region, more than 55 million people were immunized with 60 million doses of influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and COVID-19 vaccines.
Likewise, in the poster gallery, PAHO had the opportunity to showcase the experience "Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA): A global movement for equity and population health." The poster highlighted the impact of VWA, which is celebrated every year in the last week of April with the purpose of administering vaccines to people of all ages, in a festive atmosphere, in more than 40 countries of the Region.
Also shared was the poster "Building Better Immunity: A Life Course Approach for Healthy Longevity," which promotes that national immunization programs can be adjusted to close vaccination gaps and redesigned to provide protection beyond childhood.
With the advances made in technologies and information systems to support and improve management, cold chain operations, supply, and logistics, it was recognized at the end of the Conference that there are new challenges with the introduction of new vaccines to get them to their destinations and to the most remote places.