At the World Economic Forum in Davos in May 2022 – alongside government leaders from Rwanda, Ghana, Senegal, and Malawi – Pfizer, a global biopharmaceutical company, launched ‘An Accord for a Healthier World’ to help close the health equity gap for 1.2 billion people living in 45 lower-income countries. This first-of-its-kind initiative, working in collaboration with country governments and global health leaders, aims to help enable access to Pfizer’s full portfolio of medicines and vaccines for which it has global rights on a not-for-profit-basis – and progress is being made.
In September 2022, the delivery of the first shipment of Pfizer medicines and vaccines arrived in Rwanda. But providing these treatments on a not-for-profit basis is only one piece of the puzzle in ensuring they are accessible to those who need them.
In alignment with existing national healthcare strategies, Pfizer and the Rwanda Ministry of Health collaborated to deploy the track and trace platform – an innovative, product traceability system which optimises the supply chain and supports country-led efforts to help ensure Pfizer treatments reach patients across Rwanda, even in the most rural areas.
Tracking medicines and vaccines every step of the way
It’s estimated that access to preventative treatments could save 51 million lives worldwide by 2030. With nearly 14 percent substandard, falsified and diverted medicines and vaccines concentrated in Africa and Asia, these products threaten the health and well-being of millions of people and jeopardise universal health coverage.
To help address this, the track and trace platform closely follows globally standardised processes and uses digital technology to help improve patient outcomes. Through the platform, supply chain personnel from the Rwanda Ministry of Health are able to scan a unique barcode on Pfizer’s medicines and vaccines when they arrive. Using cloud-based applications and real-time visual dashboards, they can then chronicle the products’ entire journey from the moment they leave the manufacturing floor.
Authorised treatments travel through a complex journey between warehouses and dispensaries to reach patients. Limited staff and resources to manage the procurement and distribution of these treatments can also make it even more challenging and increases the risk of counterfeit medicines entering the market.
The track and trace platform aims to support ministries of health in monitoring Pfizer products’ quality and safety by limiting the risk of counterfeit and diverted products entering the market and ensuring their authenticity. It also helps governments monitor the flow and stock of Pfizer treatments at different points along the product journey. This can potentially allow governments to better understand and plan for community needs and help ensure that patients have access to safe and reliable medicines when and where they need them.
Co-creating sustainable solutions to close the health equity gap
Additional steps are being taken to help strengthen the capabilities of local supply chain personnel. Aligned with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health strategy to improve access to health services and accelerate progress towards universal health coverage, Pfizer has also supported regional training programmes to provide education to enhance and maintain the supply chain.
The Accord is co-creating sustainable solutions, like the track and trace platform, which can help improve access to quality healthcare. But there is no “one-size-fits-all" approach to making sure medicines and vaccines reach patients. Pfizer continues to work together with in-country experts and stakeholders across industries to explore ways to support countries’ healthcare strategies. Because no one government, organisation, or company can close the health equity gap alone.
Dr Theophile Dushime - Chief Technical Advisor, Rwanda Ministry of Health and Elsie Soto - Vice President, Supply Chain, Emerging Markets, Pfizer Inc