12 Oct 4 key challenges to a COVID vaccine management solution
by Dr. Suman De
In April, a survey found that over 90 percent of respondents were at least somewhat concerned about pharmaceutical supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19, with less than 10 percent saying they were not concerned. And those stats are not without good reason. The novel coronavirus poses new and disruptive challenges for public health agencies to undertake a large-scale immunization program (probably the first of its kind) that must be met with creative solutions and best strategies. Unfortunately, most current vaccine management systems are legacy, ill-prepared to administer the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes widely available. Riddled with outdated processes, unscalable technology, and poor integration setups, vaccine providers are in for a wake-up call.
As the world eagerly anticipates the advent of a successful COVID-19 vaccine, systems everywhere will need to be prepared to administer it—and this is no small task. Since the world is larger and more connected than it ever has been, and a pandemic of this magnitude has not hit the worldwide population since influenza in 1918, there are naturally going to be some bigger challenges than before. Hence, to ensure timely and equitable access to the new vaccines essential to preventing and containing the old and any new outbreaks, the public health care delivery system must reconfigure its systems and make additional efforts to strengthen the overall immunization infrastructure.
In this article, we’ll take a look at four primary areas of concern as providers, scientists, epidemiologists, public health officials, and government policymakers evaluate current vaccine management systems in a new light: scale, unknown factors, logistics, and program administration.
First and foremost is the sheer size of the COVID-19 outbreak and the ensuing vaccination process to be comprehensive and equitable. A vaccination program of this size has never been done before because the worldwide population has never been this large before, nor has there been an outbreak this large.
To give you an idea, let’s compare the coverage requirements of the flu vaccine with COVID-19: the flu vaccine can be done successfully with about 40–50 percent coverage. But with COVID-19, the country will require approximately 100+ Million doses more than typical flu season, and at least 70 percent coverage to reach an acceptable herd immunity level. That’s well over a majority of the entire population (roughly targeting 2.4 million people each day across the country for the first dose only), leaving little room for error.
Even after surmounting the demand versus supply challenges, vaccinating such a vast cohort in an aggressive manner (safely immunizing as many people as possible, as quickly as possible) and simultaneously running the existing vaccine-preventable disease programs will require the jurisdiction to adopt a highly scalable, novel, and innovative vaccine management technology solution.
The existing vaccine management systems (though they can manage for flu vaccination) are not really designed to handle the scale that the COVID vaccination program demands. Hence, trying these systems for effective COVID vaccination delivery by integrating with many new providers and their systems and additional different channels is likely to face massive breakdowns.
Because of the urgency and novelty behind the COVID-19 vaccine, there will still be many unknowns when the vaccine is approved for global rollout. As a first of its kind drug with testing and trials being conducted at a fast pace, it may not wholly represent every socio-economic, behavioral, and demographic factor or medical condition of the citizens receiving the vaccine. It will be challenging to know…
Want to keep reading? Check out the full ebook here: The Complete Guide to COVID-19 Vaccine Management.
Dr. De is Infosys Public Services’ Head for Government Healthcare Solutions. In this capacity, he is responsible for the ideation and development of next-generation solutions for public health agencies. He has vast experience in the public health domain, and his previous work experience ranges from involvement with Govt. of India’s National pulse polio immunization program in collaboration with the World Health Organization and various other public health projects conducted by international organizations like UNICEF, Indian Public Health Association, etc. He has been recognized as a subject matter expert (SME) in healthcare for his contribution to the industry through thought leadership, point of views, articles, workshops, running webinars, and speaking sessions, among others. Dr. De is a graduate in medicine from India and holds a Masters in Healthcare Administration from a premier business school in India. He is the recipient of several awards of excellence in recognition of his work for the healthcare industry.