DHL’s new Whitepaper revisits pandemic resilience, discusses future preparedness to handle such crises

During this largest global health crisis, the disruptions to every aspect of society have been profound. Logistics and supply chain management have played a vital role in pandemic management right from the start to ensure the availability and distribution of key pandemic management tools: medicines and medical supplies, such as vaccines, test kits, ancillary supplies, treatments, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

With over 200 million doses of all approved vaccines distributed to over 120 countries and 9,000 operated flights in which more than 350 DHL facilities were involved, DHL was part of the response strategy from the beginning. Over 50 bilateral and multilateral collaborations with partners in both the pharma and public sector and several new dedicated services were created to stem this task.

In a recently published white paper on “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience”, DHL takes a step back and sheds light into what the sector has learned from the race against COVID-19 to be best prepared to handle public health emergencies in the future.

The white paper builds on the experience of providing logistics to manage the pandemic over the last 15 months and vaccine distribution in over 120 countries. I do hope that this will help to shape our plans for pandemic management as well as vaccine distribution in India.”

~R.S Subramanian, SVP and Managing Director, DHL Express India.

While highlighting the aspects that can boost India’s vaccine rollout drive as well as any future health crisis, Subramanian adds, “Better collaboration, boost for manufacturing capacity, research, production and procurement plans and expansion of local deployment capabilities are needed in the coming months. There is movement in this direction.”

The report highlights the 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 foundation of this was laid by research and development by developing a vaccine five times faster than any other vaccine in history and ramping up production in record time – quadrupling pre-COVID vaccine production capacities.

Together with logistics and supply chain, they were able to get the life-saving vaccines to patients worldwide. Although unprecedented cold chain requirements of up to -70°C had to be met, logistics were able to roll out the distribution three times faster than usual. Furthermore, multilateral action by public health and policy actors has provided a conducive framework for rapid vaccine development and deployment.

“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. 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.”

~Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer, DHL

Busch adds,” 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”.

Furthermore, the report also talks about the importance of collaboration at a time when  around 10 billion vaccine doses are required globally by end of 2021 for immunisation process. At present, only four countries have achieved vaccination rates >50% and many of the remaining countries and territories have less-developed infrastructure, making the rollout more difficult.

The report said, to speed up vaccine distribution industries and nations must foster collaboration and pay special attention to building strong partnerships and a supportive data backbone.  Moreover, for safe inbound supply flows, proactive transport-capacity management and sustainable return flows for packaging are needed.

The Report also said that 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.

Speaking on the future planning, the report said that 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 institutionalise 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.

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