Deployment of Covid-19 Vaccine Will Test Global Supply Chains

“A successful rapid deployment of any proven vaccine doesn’t just rely on the amount of vaccine that can be produced it relies on multiple factors such as infrastructure, information systems and having a workforce that can administer the vaccine."

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Commenting on the news of a potential vaccine for Covid-19, Professor Richard Wilding OBE, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University notes that this is likely to be one of the biggest supply chain management challenges we have faced this century.

“A successful rapid deployment of any proven vaccine doesn’t just rely on the amount of vaccine that can be produced it relies on multiple factors such as infrastructure, information systems and having a workforce that can administer the vaccine.”

He adds that what we will see is essentially like a product launch, with a fast ramp-up, then a different supply chain for when it reaches a steady state, then one for a decline in demand. Just like a product launch, as well as the availability of product, you also have to generate demand by persuading the population that they must get the vaccine, the demand creation element. Logistics and supply chain practice is about fulfilling this demand.

“Reports that the Pfizer drug needs to be stored at -70°C will only add to the complexity around transportation and storage logistics with specialist storage needed. The specialist infrastructure and storage equipment will become a supply chain in its own right with its own manufacturing and distribution processes attached to it. Stresses on this supply chain will have then impact on how much vaccine you can move,” he says.

According to Wilding, government’s and health professionals need to seek out and listen to not just pharmaceutical supply chain experts but also those that are used to operating and releasing products at great speed such as technology companies like Apple, fashion companies and supermarkets.

“For the supply chain, the scale and speed needed and the challenges it will face will be immense. However, I’m confident that if knowledge and best practice is sought out from supply chain experts across industries then this can be pulled off.”

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About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson

Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor specializing in international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He is based in San Francisco, where he provides a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. He may be reached at his downtown office: [email protected].

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