Saturday, February 20, 2021

Vaccine Distribution - Why reinvent the wheel?

When things are normal, the distribution system of the pharmaceutical drug supply chain in the US has been robust. According to the CDC over 48% of the US population receives one prescription drug in a month. Combine this stat with the fact that the US Pharma industry provides 2.9 Billion drugs in a year, we have an already existing supply chain that can more than adequately take care of the vaccine distribution for everyone who wants one in the US. (source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drug-use-therapeutic.htm)

Judging by the pain that local communities have been feeling especially in Montgomery County where I live, where there is fragmented information on where, when, and how people will receive the vaccine. We need to think differently which actually means to think traditionally and put the vaccines into the Pharmaceutical system that exists today instead of reinventing or standing up a new distribution system.

Pharmacies already have our data. They can determine age, eligibility, and existing medical conditions. They already have our contact information, insurance information, and location. Pharmacies and stores have pivoted their infrastructure to cope with the pandemic. When the pandemic struck, one of the quickest changes was my local CVS who just mailed my medicines and continued the process without any disruption.

The process today to make people search multiple places and set up an appointment is not working. A better system may be to quickly use the existing supply chain for pharmaceutical drugs. Notify people that their turn is arriving and where they need to go and get their vaccine.

Here are the steps I suggest:

  • Communication: Stop people from clogging up appointments by letting them know that they will get their vaccination from their existing pharmacy. They are free to change their pharmacy the same way as they do today. People struggle with multiple channels of communication. Just like I do not hear from the county for my regular doctor prescribed medicine, they can stop talking politics and try to run a supply chain themselves which is already failing miserably
  • Education: Use the enormous marketing and advertising talent available to run ads in all the local media channels on how the process works. Pharmacy companies are masters at selling their prescription drugs in Ads. Even though this is almost a monopoly, they can unleash those ads for letting people know the method of how the vaccination will work.
  • Action: Set up a control room that includes pharmacy retailers, Insurance companies (for data), and logistic experts to monitor the distribution and reroute vaccinations where necessary.
  • Results: For every phased stage, patients will receive a text message or email asking them to set up a time for going to their local pharmacy or clinic to get the vaccine. No stress, confusion or anxiety that the US population is facing today.

This may be simple and I am sure many of the experts have already thought of this. There may be some quick legislation necessary in case data needs to get transferred which I am sure Congress can pass very quickly. This type of system has worked in Israel according to an article in the MIT Technology Review (https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/01/22/1016471/israel-covid-vaccine-rollout-hadas-ziv/) I am confident that we can do the same thing if not better. Remember the stress is not only for the patient in this case but to the whole family. Anything we can do in these dark days to reduce the stress is I am sure calming to everyone.

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