Manufacturers can't speed up production. Shippers can't speed up distribution. Providers can't speed up vaccination. Why?
It turns out the answer is - like the answers to most questions involving healthcare, especially in the U.S. - "It's complicated."
Incidentally, if you want to solve one of the other complicated problems in the U.S. healthcare industry - product expiration waste - we've partnered with Becker's Hospital News and Steward Health Care for a webinar on that exact topic.
On the topic at hand, let's defer to the experts in vaccine production and hospital supply chains on what has made the vaccination rollout less than ideal so far...
- Manufacturing almost any kind of vaccine is a highly specialized process that requires highly specialized materials and equipment. It's not something you can do at just any old factory or plant.
- So why isn't the distribution going any smoother once it's manufactured? One expert claims: “Medical people do not know how supply chains work. ... Supply chain people do not know what is happening with the virus.” (We know plenty of healthcare supply chain folks who are the exception to that rule, but we understand the point.)
- What's needed to improve how we distribute and administer the vaccine? Coordination, communication, and visibility. None of which comes easy.
- And - fortunately - incidents like having to distribute doses after a freezer failure or despite protester disruption prove that we can do better in the face of emergency. We just have to treat this like the emergency it is.
- In related, unwelcome news: although many of the mask sourcing problems faced in 2020 seem to be ironed out by now, the specters of two problems continue to haunt us: that counterfeits are still circulating in the supply, and that decontaminating and reusing masks is a less viable solution than previously thought.
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