Computer model increases effectiveness of Republic of Benin vaccination program

A team of researchers recently used modeling software to aid West Africa's Republic of Benin in determining how to bring more lifesaving vaccines to its children.

The HERMES Logistics Modeling Team, made up of researchers from the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, reported its findings this month in the journal Vaccine.

The HERMES model's results have aided the Republic of Benin in enacting initial changes to its vaccines delivery system, which could lead to additional changes nationwide.

Changes include consolidating the nation's system of 80 "commune-level" supply depots to a system of 34 "health-zone" depots while changing transportation routes, potentially saving between $50,000 and $70,000 in initial expenses and $50,000 to $90,000 in annual costs while reaching 99 to 100 percent of children.

The improved plan will save Benin more than $500,000 in total costs through 2017 while improving vaccination rates and facilitating the rotavirus vaccine.

"The paper outlines our engagement with the Benin Ministry of Health in which we worked to choose among some key redesign options of their vaccine supply chain," Shawn T. Brown, the director of public health applications at PSC and the technical lead of the HERMES team, as well as the research's first author, said. "It's a clear use of computational modeling and simulation to help a government figure out how to get the vaccines that are so desperately needed to every child they can."

The HERMES model was also used to illustrate the impact of adding the rotavirus vaccine to the nation's supply chain. Rotavirus is the major cause of infant mortality in low-income nations, accounting for approximately 500,000 child deaths annually.

"These are major policy decisions that could affect millions of lives," Bruce Y. Lee, an associate professor of international health and the director of operations research at the International Vaccine Access Center of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said. "Our team's goal has been to develop state-of-the art computational technology to help such decision-making around the world."