A Conversation About Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Resilience and COVID-19

November 06, 2020

On October 27, HDA and The Hill brought together policymakers, leaders in the pharmaceutical industry and public health experts to discuss the supply chain’s response during COVID-19. In conversation with Steve Clemons, Editor-in-Chief of The Hill, speakers provided key insights on ensuring the strength and resilience of the pharmaceutical supply chain during this unprecedented crisis. Below are five takeaways from the dialogue.

1. Distributors effectively leveraged their logistics expertise throughout COVID-19.

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who spoke about the development, distribution and allocation of upcoming COVID-19 vaccines, commended pharmaceutical distributors’ response during the early stages of COVID-19. Gottlieb noted, that distributors’ swift and effective response “shows you how good the logistics are in this country when it comes to medical product."

2. Pharmacists will play a vital role in the distribution of upcoming COVID-19 vaccines.

As the only pharmacist in Congress, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) provided a unique perspective on the critical role pharmacists play as the most accessible healthcare professional in the country, highlighting that 95 percent of all Americans live within five miles of a pharmacist. Rep. Carter emphasized that because many Americans receive their vaccinations at the pharmacy, leveraging pharmacists’ unique accessibility to patients in administering upcoming COVID-19 vaccines will “enable us to get it out to the people as quickly as possible and as safely as possible.” Learn how distributors support pharmacists in communities across the U.S.

3. Distributors stand ready to “turn vaccines into vaccinations” by collaborating with federal and state governments.

Given the focus and anticipation around the successful development of COVID-19 vaccines, HDA President and CEO Chip Davis shared how distributors stand ready to leverage their expertise and the lessons of the early pandemic response to partner with federal and state governments throughout the vaccine distribution process. “The goal for us is to turn vaccines into vaccinations, and that’s what our members are very much focused on — engaging with public health institutions at the federal, state and local level,” said Davis.

4. It will take both the commercial and public health supply chains to support the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

During a panel discussion with stakeholders representing distribution, public health and providers, AmerisourceBergen’s Heather Zenk reiterated that it will require coordination between the commercial and public healthcare supply chains to ensure the safe and efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. “The commercial supply chain is built on efficiency and scale,” remarked Zenk. “In order to vaccinate, we are going to need to use both the public health supply chain and the commercial supply chain to make this happen, but from a distribution point of view — scale, efficiency and effectiveness, that’s our bread and butter.”

5. Transparency around access and distribution is vital.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius leaned on her prior experience leading the H1N1 response effort to provide a firsthand perspective on the importance of a transparent national strategy for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Secretary Sebelius outlined key questions that supply chain stakeholders will need to answer as they prepare to transparently and efficiently bring a new vaccine to market, including “Where is the vaccine going? How will it be available? Who gets it first? How many people?”

Throughout the event, the insightful conversation reiterated how stakeholders across the pharmaceutical supply chain are collaborating in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis to maintain the supply of vital medicines.

The full video of the event is available here.