The Race Against the Virus: DHL reveals Covid-19 Learnings

DHL white paper update reveals learnings from one year into COVID-19 to better inform how to handle public health emergencies in the future

Supply Chain and Logistics have played a vital role in managing what turned out to be the largest public health emergency in the last 100 years. The good news is, current vaccination rates are outpacing infection rates by a factor of ten, with the production-to-injection timeframe being as fast as two days.

There are important achievements across research and development, production, and supply chain management as well as policy that will help us get through the crisis as a global community. 

The white paper on “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” looks to the learnings gained over the last year to better inform how to handle public health emergencies in the future.

  • Involving over 350 facilities, and 9,000 operated flights, DHL distributed more than 200 million vaccine doses to over 120 countries to date  
  • From 2022 onward, a further 7-9 billion doses of vaccines are necessary annually to keep (re-)infection rates low and slow down the pace of virus mutations  
  • Locally adapted last-mile delivery, distribution models and a constant stock of vaccines will continue to be critical beyond 2021 
  • Despite unprecedented cold chain requirements of up to - 70°C that had to be met, logistics were able to roll out the distribution three times faster than usual.

Supply chains have fought unprecedented disruptions in ensuring the proper distribution and availability of vital virus-fighting supplies such as medicines, vaccines, PPE, test kits, ancillary supplies and treatments. To stem the task, over 50 pharma and public sector partners and several new dedicated services were created. 

Although much has been accomplished, a fight still lays ahead. For high levels of immunization, around 10 billion vaccine doses are required globally by end of 2021. To date, only four countries have achieved vaccination rates >50% and many of the remaining countries and territories have less-developed infrastructure, creating further challenges in the rollout. 

To speed up vaccine distribution, the following areas need to be looked at says DHL: 

  • Industries and nations must foster collaboration, paying special attention to building strong partnerships and a supportive data backbone.  
  • For safe inbound supply flows, proactive transport-capacity management and sustainable return flows for packaging are needed. This is particularly critical as more than 95% of global COVID-19 vaccine doses are produced in just eight countries and need to be delivered worldwide. 
  • Locally tailored last-mile, ground distribution models should be put into place with a focus on strategic location of warehouses, the synchronization of vaccines and ancillaries flow as well as the number and location of vaccination points. 
  • The set-up logistics infrastructure and capacity should be kept on that level as in the coming years further 7-9 billion doses of vaccines are necessary annually to keep (re-)infection rates low and slow down the pace of virus mutations – seasonal fluctuations not counted. 

Planning for the future it is essential to identify and prevent health crises early through active partnerships, expanded global warning systems, an integrated epidemic-preventions agenda and targeted R&D investments. It is also recommended to expand and institutionalize virus containment and countermeasures (e. g. digital contact tracing and national stockpiles) to ensure strategic preparedness and more efficient response times. To facilitate a speedy rollout of medication (i. e. diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines), governments and industries should employ “ever-warm” manufacturing capacity, blueprint research, production, and procurement plans, as well as expand local deployment capabilities.

 “Logistics and supply chain management play a key role in pandemic management. Keeping supply chains running and ensuring delivery for essential health supplies provided valuable lessons”, explains Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL. “We rolled out new dedicated services for the vaccine distribution at unprecedented speed. All sectors, industries, and nations must work together to successfully end the acute phase of this pandemic. Forming strong partnerships and leveraging data analytics will be key. We also need to remain prepared for high patient and vaccine volumes, maintain logistics infrastructure and capacity, while planning for seasonal fluctuations by providing a stable and well-equipped platform for the years to come.”



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