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Preparing the Supply Chain for a Coronavirus Vaccine

As we fight to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists are urgently working to create a vaccine. Manufacturing and distributing hundreds of millions of doses when a vaccine is approved is yet another challenge to address.

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The issue of creating a viable vaccine on a greatly reduced schedule is one challenge – what generally takes 4 years or more is being pushed to accomplish in one. The global supply chain during the pandemic has already taken a hit in so many ways as distribution channels are slowed and labor shortages and product delays complicate matters even further. Planning for the additional raw materials and supplies that will be needed to distribute a vaccine is a task that some say needs to happen now.

Vials, rubber stoppers, syringes and plungers will need to be available in quantities of hundreds of millions in the U.S. alone, and the distribution issues, confusion and shortages of necessary medical supplies currently being experienced to fight the virus should be a warning of much needed planning for the near future. According to a recent NY Times article, “details are still scarce about which federal agency would be responsible” for vaccine delivery devices under the White House’s vaccine production plan.

The article goes on to say that there are currently at least 69 countries that have banned or restricted the export of medical devices, medicines and protective equipment due to the coronavirus, and many U.S. manufacturers import glass tubing, polypropylene and rubber or silicone for their own operations, largely from China and India where lockdowns and export bans are also in place. To meet these needs, supply channels within the U.S. may have to come from manufacturers that are currently operating outside of the health care industry.

See All Roads Lead to Delay in the Time of COVID-19

The procurement will likely be daunting, but as one doctor told the NY Times, “The good news is we have time.” Device and package production must be scaled while vaccines are in development.

See PMMI's Coronavirus response resources by clicking here.
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