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Commentary: We will not depend on only one firm to distribute COVID vaccines

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With circumstances of COVID-19 surging throughout the nation, there was unbelievable urgency for a secure and efficient vaccine. However there are sobering messages from public well being officers and vaccine firm executives in current days that the vaccine probably gained’t be out there to a majority of the U.S. inhabitants till effectively into 2021.

The approval of a vaccine, nonetheless, will solely be step one towards restoring the well being and safety of our nation. There is a crucial distinction between the creation of a vaccine designed to forestall the unfold of COVID-19 and a profitable course of of producing, distribution, and administration. 

The event of a vaccine—significantly on the scale of supporting the wants of the whole inhabitants—takes time. As well as, manufacturing and distributing this vaccine is a monumental logistical and safety problem. A secure and environment friendly vaccination effort presents some of the advanced logistical challenges the nation has ever confronted.

The COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan envisions administering no less than 300 million doses within the U.S. alone—and greater than 600 million if two doses are required. Within the proposed Section 1 alone, the goal inhabitants for vaccines may contain roughly 5 million U.S. hospital staff and greater than 8 million long-term care companies customers. That is six occasions the traditional quantity for the flu vaccine.

Hundreds of vaccination places will should be recognized and created, with many websites having to be accessible to lower-income people with transportation challenges. Many Individuals residing in rural areas would not have the amenities with acceptable refrigeration required to deal with the temperature-sensitive vaccines. There shall be a necessity for strict bodily safety, monitoring and supply controls, cybersecurity protections, delicate dealing with, and temperature controls.

That’s the reason, together with the Division of Well being and Human Providers, the President has turned to the Division of Protection—the nation’s specialists in logistics—to guide Operation Warp Velocity.

A key tenet within the navy’s operational planning for any contingency is to by no means permit for a single level of failure. Our navy recurrently scrutinizes every a part of an operation to make sure each contingency has been thought-about and no sources are left on the sideline. The size and significance of a COVID-19 vaccination program calls for the U.S. authorities deal with resilience. This necessitates bringing to the desk each key participant—from producers, distributors, and supply companies to suppliers, payers, and public well being specialists—to construct the strongest distribution method attainable.

The U.S. personal medical distribution community consists primarily of three giant distributors, which collectively service about 95% of pharmaceutical distribution, every masking about one-third of the market. This present system has built-in redundancy in case any of the businesses experiences delays of their distribution. 

But the U.S. authorities has to date supplied a contract to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to a single U.S. firm: McKesson. It will likely be a rare problem for one firm to supervise vaccinations of greater than 300 million individuals by means of one distribution community. 

Placing all of our eggs in a single basket exposes our vaccination course of to the potential for what we within the navy name a single level of failure threat.  

Simply as our navy contracts out to dozens of U.S. firms to help logistics efforts all over the world, so ought to the U.S. authorities take into account a number of distributors for the COVID-19 vaccine. There are a selection of firms, each medical distribution firms and firms specializing in logistics, which have capabilities and strengths in numerous areas of the nation and are prepared to assist. 

The navy is already conducting a number of tabletop workouts to plan for contingencies and potential distribution failures. The Protection Division could be prudent to make use of these workouts to check how a number of distributors may successfully ship vaccines whereas lowering the only level of failure threat. 

A number of vaccine and therapeutic candidates are conducting the later phases of scientific trials wanted to reveal their security and efficacy. However there may be much less readability across the nationwide vaccination effort. The parameters round who will obtain the vaccine, when, and the way are nonetheless murky. The earlier the method is made extra clear, the extra belief and confidence the general public will really feel.

The belief of the American individuals shall be an important consider a profitable vaccination effort. Any interruption in any a part of the vaccination effort, significantly distribution, may destroy this belief.

The U.S. has essentially the most skilled navy on the planet. I’ve little question that with the Protection Division supporting the event, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID vaccines, America can perform an efficient vaccination program.

James Stavridis, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was sixteenth supreme allied commander of NATO and twelfth dean of the Fletcher Faculty of Regulation and Diplomacy at Tufts. In each positions, he centered on world well being considerations and points, together with the logistics related to fixing medical challenges within the Center East, Africa, and Europe.

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