Ask any scientist anchored in the real world, and they posit that the simplest of competing theories is preferred to the more complex. Look it up in Webster’s. The concept is called Occam’s razor.
So how would Occam design the vaccine supply chain network for covid-19?
The days of the neighborhood pharmacies and corner grocery stores are long past. Now, large pharmacy chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid are ubiquitous. Add to that list grocers with in-store pharmacies: Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons, Vons. Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Hannaford, and Publix. These chains understand inventory, turnover shelf life, and refrigeration.
Most importantly, this slice of the private sector understands logistics, distribution and retail delivery.
Since December, the logistics profession has shown that they can effectively get the Covid-19 vaccines to the point of need. Yet getting it to the point of need is not the same as satisfying the patient’s need. Showing somebody the vaccine is not the same as giving the vaccine.
The challenges have been in getting the vaccines administered.
Since mid-December, according to the New York Times, in New York City just over 200,000 vaccines had been administered. To ramp up progress, the Times reports, “On Sunday, New York City opened five vaccination centers: facilities for mass inoculation at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the Bathgate Contract Postal Station in the Bronx; and smaller “vaccine hubs” at the South Bronx Educational Campus, the Bushwick Educational Campus in Brooklyn and Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, Queens.”
New York City is doubling down on a top-down mandated solution, but there are alternatives. Consider the opportunity in existing private sector pharmaceutical networks. This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis launched distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations in Collier, Flagler, St. Johns, and Volusia counties through grocery store chain Publix. CNN reports that pharmacists nationwide have the capacity to administer 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine once supply is available, citing Steven Anderson, President and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, vaccines will be available at pharmacies across the state beginning on January 18.
We could drive delivery through the private sector and let market forces, not bureaucrats, establish the equilibrium. Look to your local pharmacies and grocery stores. We may already have a big part of the solution to delivery right in front of us.
Remember Occam’s razor.