Dynamically optimizing the administration of vaccines from multi-dose vials

Maryam H. Mofrad, Lisa M. Maillart, Bryan A. Norman, Jayant Rajgopal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Many vaccines are manufactured in large, multi-dose vials that once opened, must be used within a matter of hours. As a result, clinicians (especially those in remote locations) face difficult tradeoffs between opening a vial to satisfy a potentially small immediate demand versus retaining the vial to satisfy a potentially large future demand. This article formulates a Markov decision process model that determines when to conserve vials as a function of time of day, the current vial inventory, and the remaining clinic-days until the next replenishment. The objective is to minimize open-vial waste while administering as many vaccinations as possible. It is analytically established that the optimal policy is of a threshold type. Furthermore, an extensive sensitivity analysis is conducted that speaks to the benefits of consolidating demand, investing in buffer stock, and adopting different vial sizes. Lastly, a practical heuristic is evaluated and shown to perform competitively with the optimal policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-635
Number of pages13
JournalIIE Transactions (Institute of Industrial Engineers)
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 3 2014


  • Markov decision process
  • multi-dose vial
  • perishable inventory model
  • vaccine wastage


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