A Bottleneck that Could KillBy Jorge Ramos Zwanziger | Tue, 07/27/2021 - 12:05
With the ongoing pandemic, the main concern for people, governments and countries seems to be the availability of vaccines. While production has been a challenge of its own due to the complexity and expense of developing a vaccine in such a short time, the other key factor limiting vaccine availability is logistics, explains a recent report from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
During its webinar “Regulatory Cooperation during the COVID-19 Pandemic” and its symposium “COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain and Regular Transparency,” the WTO set out to find and address the main logistic challenges in the way of the efficient distribution of vaccines. According to the WTO, essential goods, in this case vaccines, “need to flow efficiently and expeditiously to support the rapid scaling up of COVID-19 production capacity worldwide.” In these circumstances, a delay in the supply chain can significantly slow down or in worse cases halt vaccine production, given the complexity of integrated supply chains surrounding COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing.
“Vaccines are being developed, but their capacity to end this pandemic depends on an efficient supply chain that can connect various production sites with the public,” said Frank Appel, CEO of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, according to the WTO. The largest issues identified by the WTO are several trade-related bottlenecks that slow down the entire process. Some of these challenges include the following: vaccine inputs that include rigorous documentation requirements and constant renewal of licenses and certificates; import and export procedures, which limit the possibility of sending non-commercial samples of vaccines; the lack of predictability in import restrictions in different countries; and “the difficulty of receiving donations as they are not commercial transactions that can be subject to stringent controls,” causing tariffs and internal taxes that increase the costs of manufacturing.
Other hurdles lay in the complexity of having the vaccines approved by different regulatory systems, as the differences amongst countries in terms of regulatory frameworks, procedures and timelines creates even more complexity for manufacturers, piling on time and money. Finally, there is the question of distribution, where challenges in border clearances slow down vaccine deliveries and local supply chains. “If borders remain closed, travel remains restricted, fleets stay on land and employees partially unemployed, the ability to supply life-saving vaccines will be seen seriously compromised,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Managing Director and IATA Executive Director, according to the WTO.