McKinsey: Using Logistics To Meet Testing Demands
Testing is considered a crucial aspect for tackling and containing the COVID-19 pandemic, but constraints surrounding the supply of diagnostic equipment is significantly hindering a vast majority of countries still struggling with the virus.
As one of the largest natural crises ever to hit the world, the outbreak of the coronavirus has presented numerous challenges that the majority of countries have found difficult to mitigate. Molecular assays, a technology that focuses and identifies the viral genetic materials and detects the presence of the virus within an individual, and immunoassays, which work to focus on identifying and detecting antigens or antibodies, are the two main types of COVID-19 testing.
As the method which is widely regarded as the test which is most able to detect active infections, molecular-assay testing requires a number of lab-based resources to meet demands. The United States currently has the capacity to carry out approximately three and a half million molecular assay tests every week, which is significantly below the number required to tackle the pandemic - which currently sits at roughly six million tests per week with a partially reopened country.
The supply of tests needs to be increased dramatically before scientists and doctors can have any hope of meeting the needs of the world. The main obstacles standing in the way of delivering laboratory testing equipments are sample collection, test execution, testing-capacity management, logistics and data management.
Logistics companies, as they have done throughout a number of natural crises and issues throughout history, stand to play a crucial, essential role to successful testing. The supply chain has never been so important, with shipments of components from sources to different locations around the world, from laboratories to hospitals, effective management of logistics must be done right.
The transportation of samples, from the beginning of their journeys at the collection point, right through to the end result in laboratories, is also important to get right. Without the efficient, successful deliveries of these essential goods, labs will be incapable of meeting the worldwide testing targets, which could eventually, potentially, amount to 20 million every day.
Whilst not the largest obstacle standing in the way of identifying cases, logistics is still problematic and could become more of a challenge for countries attempting to improve detection, as demand will continue to rise exponentially and pressure will be constantly added.
DHL Claim Multi-Sector Collaboration Key to Fighting COVID
Since January, global logistics leader DHL has distributed more than 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine to 120+ countries around the globe. While the US and UK recently rolled out immunisation plans to most citizens, countries with less developed infrastructure still desperately need more doses. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which currently has one of the highest per-capita immunisation rates, the government set up storage facilities to cover domestic and international demand. But storage, as we’ve learned, is little help if you can’t transport the goods.
This is where logistics leaders such as DHL make their impact. The company built over 50 new partnerships, bilateral and multilateral, to collaborate with pharmaceutical and private sector firms. With more than 350 DHL centres pressed into service, the group operated 9,000+ flights to ship the vaccine where it needed to go.
With new pandemic knowledge, DHL just released its “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” white paper, which examined the role of logistics and supply chain companies in handling COVID-19. As Thomas Ellman, Head of Clinical Trials Logistics at DHL, said: “The past one year has highlighted the importance of logistics and supply chain management to manage the pandemic, ensure business continuity and protect public health. It has also shown us that together we are stronger”.
Multisector partnerships, DHL said, enabled rapid, effective vaccine distribution. While international scientists developed a vaccine in record time—five times faster than any other vaccine in history—manufacturers ramped up production and logistics teams rolled out distribution three times faster than expected. When commercial routes faced backups, logistics operators worked with military officers to transport vaccines via helicopters and boats.
In the UAE, the public-private HOPE Consortium distributed billions of COVID-19 doses to its civilians as well as other countries in need by partnering with commercial organisations such as DHL. For the first time, apropo for an unprecedented pandemic, logistics companies made strong connections with public health and government.
“While the race against the virus continues, leveraging the power of such collaborations and data analytics will be key”, said Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL and Head of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “We 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”.
How Do We Sustain Immunisation?
By the end of 2021, experts estimate that we need approximately 10 billion doses of vaccines—many of which will be shipped to areas of the world, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil, that lack significant infrastructure. This is perhaps the greatest divide between countries that have rolled out successful immunisation programmes and those that have not. As Busch noted, “the UAE’s significant investments in creating robust air, sea, and land infrastructure facilitated logistics and vaccine distribution, helping us keep supply chains resilient”.
Neither is the novel coronavirus a one-time affair. If predictions hold, COVID will be similar to seasonal colds or the flu: here to stay. When fall comes around each year, governments will need to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to ensure long-term immunisation against the virus. This time, logistics companies must be better prepared.
Yet global immunisation, year after year, is no small order. To keep reinfection rates low and slow the spread of COVID, governments will likely need 7-9 billion annual doses of the vaccine to meet that mark. And if DHL’s white paper is any judge of success, multi-sector supply chain partnerships will set the gold standard.