Few studies document the costs of operating vaccine supply chains, but decision-makers need this information to inform cost projections for investments to accommodate new vaccine introduction. This paper presents empirical estimates of vaccine supply chain costs for Vietnam's Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) for routine vaccines at each level of the supply chain, before and after the introduction of the pentavalent vaccine. We used micro-costing methods to collect resource-use data associated with storage and transportation of vaccines and immunization supplies at the national store, the four regional stores, and a sample of provinces, districts, and commune health centers. We collected stock ledger data on the total number of doses of vaccines handled by each facility during the assessment year. Total supply chain costs were estimated at approximately US$65,000 at the national store and an average of US$39,000 per region, US$5800 per province, US$2200 per district, and US$300 per commune health center. Across all levels, cold chain equipment capital costs and labor were the largest drivers of costs. The cost per dose delivered was estimated at US$0.19 before the introduction of pentavalent and US$0.24 cents after introduction. At commune health centers, supply chain costs were 104% of the value of vaccines before introduction of pentavalent vaccine and 24% after introduction, mainly due to the higher price per dose of the pentavalent vaccine. The aggregated costs at the last tier of the health system can be substantial because of the large number of facilities. Even in countries with high-functioning systems, empirical evidence on current costs from all levels of the system can help estimate resource requirements for expanding and strengthening resources to meet future immunization program needs. Other low- and middle-income countries can benefit from similar studies, in view of new vaccine introductions that will put strains on existing systems.
2014. Vol. 32, no 7, 834-8 p.