Olivier Mericer and Gaetan Sourdaine

Beyond manufacturing in Chile and Madagascar

In 2015, GSK Vaccines sent two vaccine manufacturing teams to South America and Africa to better understand the impact of their daily work.

Olivier Mercier, formulation manager for GSK’s pneumococcal vaccine and Gaetan Sourdaine, packaging manager, based at our Vaccines sites in Belgium had the unique opportunity to witness the importance of their work in Chile and Madagascar respectively.

To mark World Immunization Week, they talk here about what they saw, what they learned, and the impact of their work on communities in those countries and around the world.

Going beyond the manufacturing chain

“In Chile, we witnessed public vaccination programmes, which are the final link in the business chain and in my opinion the most important,” says Olivier. “Exposure to these programmes took us far beyond the lengthy, complex and strict steps that we are used to in manufacturing. Being able to talk with the parents of children coming to be vaccinated opened our eyes to the real importance of the role vaccination plays in helping to prevent illness.”

Olivier and his team were also impressed by the logistical elements of vaccine delivery within Chile. “We were really pleased to see that upon delivery to Chile, our vaccines are kept strictly within the recommended temperature range of between 2-8 degrees centigrade until the point of vaccination. It was fascinating because this is something we don’t usually get to see with our own eyes”.

On the island of Madagascar, Gaetan Sourdaine’s packaging team also witnessed the benefits of vaccination. “Everywhere we travelled we saw that every dose counts - it’s considered a treasure,” says Sourdaine.

“Health risks are greater in Madagascar than in developed countries, so each vaccine represents an opportunity for additional protection for children and one less fear for parents. Our work plays a crucial role in ensuring these vaccines arrive safely and rapidly, right where they’re needed.”

Striving for excellence

"People are very confident about vaccination in Chile, but some parents and doctors would like more information to answer their questions," says Mercier.

As a result of his trip, Mercier saw that one way of further educating people of the importance of vaccination would be to provide brochures, guides, videos and other simple educational materials understandable by all.

For Sourdaine most of the questions surrounding vaccines are the same worldwide, and concern product quality, price and availability.

“This experience has made us want to do even better, to be even more effective,” he says. “But, more importantly, it has made us much more aware of how much our work counts. And you don’t need to go all the way to Madagascar or Chile to help. Advancing the cause of vaccines begins with our everyday activity of ensuring every product is of a high quality.”