Would you go back?
Update: This story has a happy ending. On Tuesday, June 23rd, the author did go back, and her son got his last dose of the rotavirus vaccine.
Today is my son's six-month birthday, and my husband and I took him in for his six-month pediatric appointment. He was due for his third and final doses of TDaP, Hib and IPV (pentavalent), HepB, PCV and rotavirus vaccines - only there was no rotavirus vaccine in stock. My state-of-the-art pediatric practice in Washington, DC, had a stock-out.
Working on vaccine policy, I hear about stock-outs all of the time. Parents (usually moms) walk for miles and make other sacrifices to bring their babies to health clinics for their vaccines, only to find that the clinic has run out of the vaccine or the order never arrived.
For me, this is a mere inconvenience. When the clinic calls that the vaccine is back in stock, I will walk the few blocks with my son, wait a few minutes to see the nurse, and likely show up to work an hour late.
For millions of families around the world who aren't as lucky as my family, the decision to return carries much more weight and burden.
At the same time that we build vital demand for families to vaccinate their children, we must also ensure that adequate supply is available for the families when they come. Vaccine availability depends on a multitude of factors, but a critical component is the supply chain and logistics systems that ensure vaccines (and related supplies) arrive safely when and where they are needed.
This is why the World Health Organization Immunization Practices and Advisory Committee (IPAC) and Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization (SAGE) issued a Call to Action on immunization supply chains and logistics; WHO and UNICEF launched the Effective Vaccine Management initiative to help low and lower-middle income countries upgrade their immunization supply chains; and WHO, UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi launched a joint Supply Chain Strategy to help countries put the fundamentals in place for improved immunization supply chains.
We need to continue to build on this moment and see greater national action so that appropriate supply is available to meet the demand - so that families don't make the trek only to be turned away.
For my family, we will return. But who knows about the millions of parents in less fortunate situations who may make the difficult decision not to return.
For more information:
-- This video from UNICEF shows a side-by-side comparison of two mothers whose access to vaccines looks completely different.
-- This isn't Erin's son's first appearance on the blog! Erin's advocacy work came full circle when her son received his first rotavirus vaccine.