Due to their biological nature, the purchase of vaccines is a complex process that requires specialized knowledge in order to ensure vaccine quality. The composition of vaccines is different to drugs in several respects and therefore their procurement requires additional considerations. For instance, because vaccine production is a biological process dependent upon living organisms as raw material, quality must be strictly enforced at all stages of the production process. The character of every vaccine batch produced is subject to variation, so laboratory testing of the finished product is insufficient to assure product quality. Quality control requires full-compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) through all stages of production.
There are many companies producing vaccines, but currently a little over twenty vaccine producers vaccine producers that are pre-qualified by WHO. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that governments purchase their vaccines through a competent procurement entity that observes well-established, internationally recognized procurement procedures, whether the vaccines are imported or locally produced. Procuring vaccines based solely on obtaining the lowest market price is not a recommended practice. Assuring quality must be the primary consideration above all others.
The risks from poor quality vaccines are considerable, adverse events caused by using poor quality vaccines can destroy public confidence in an immunization programme and place even more lives at risk. Public acceptance of vaccination is highly dependent upon the quality of vaccines used.
Finally the key to effective and efficient procurement is the having well trained staff, involving the right people at the right time, the development of appropriate systems and documentation. These factors will allow for competent management, limitability, monitoring and evaluation.
"Procurement of Vaccines for Public Sector Programmes: A Reference Manual 1999" is a large and detailed document produced as a result of a collaboration between WHO, USAID, BASICS and PATH. It provides practical examples and outlines the processes that could be used in the development of an efficient vaccine procurement system. While some of the specific reference documents may have been superseded or updated since its publication these should be available and utilized from the source organization(s).
Last updated 25 September 2009