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Health and Safety

Vaccine Distribution: The Role of Business, Government and Technology

The development of a coronavirus vaccine is an incredible feat by the global medical community, offering a moment of optimism for many. 

Yet, it also poses the next major challenge governments will face in addressing the global pandemic. Vaccine distribution at a mass scale will require integration and collaboration across local, state, federal, international and global entities

This week, in partnership with Protocol, Salesforce hosted an event on “Distributing the Vaccine.” I had the opportunity to join experts in the medical, pharmaceutical and logistics communities to discuss the various challenges that will come with worldwide vaccine distribution. The full video replay of the event is here: 

The Role of Tech and Public-Private Partnerships

We discussed the need for businesses and governments to work together to equitably and efficiently distribute the vaccine. And how technology will be the necessary throughline for helping governments manage their vaccination campaigns. 

We’ve never needed to engage the public and private sectors at this level before. Businesses and governments will need to join forces on a global scale to offer consistent, reliable and truthful messaging about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. It will require creativity to determine how we share information about the various COVID-19 vaccines across different communities and through channels that people trust.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires two doses and must be chilled, is the first of its kind to ever be delivered to or approved for humans. This requires a special focus on supply chain and logistics. Complex problems like this cannot be solved in silos, which is why we need to leverage technology to provide decision-makers with quality, timely data. We must invest in infrastructure that can help us act quickly, not just today, but also in the future. 

We need to ensure that there’s clear, transparent, and truthful communication, so that we have the appropriate uptake – not only within the frontlines but beyond that into our communities globally.

Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, Salesforce Chief Medical Officer

And all of this must be done with a focus on an equitable distribution of the vaccine, ensuring that high-risk populations and essential workers have priority access. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, we know that high- and upper-middle income countries have collectively reserved nearly 5 billion vaccine doses. People in many low income countries might have to wait until 2023 or 2024 for the vaccines. And we’ve heard about poorer countries where only one in 10 people may get vaccinations this year. Vaccine nationalism won’t work in this pandemic, though we are already seeing it. If we do not get a handle on the pandemic everywhere, it will continue to pose threats. We must all work together to protect the most vulnerable among us. 

Many on the panel shared similar points of view. Here’s what they had to say on how businesses and governments should collaborate, and the challenges involved in accelerating pandemic response efforts. 

Distributing the Vaccine

On Equitable Global Distribution of Vaccines: “We are working very closely with our regional offices and member states to ensure that there is systematic tracking as the vaccines are rolled out. Ecosystems in countries are being reviewed at the moment, ensuring that all countries have the infrastructure that is necessary. There are data gaps in a number of regions, but I think we should be able to make this work in all countries.” – Dr. Samira Asma, Assistant director-general for data, analytics & delivery for impact at the World Health Organization

On Delivery, Transportation and Storage of Vaccines: “The Pfizer vaccine requires a cold temperature of negative 94 Fahrenheit, which is an extreme Antarctic level that requires its own packaging system. It has to be put into a packaging system that utilizes dry ice and there have to be means to allow for it to get out to areas that are going to use it. That then requires a system that monitors the temperature and other conditions as it’s moved around. Then you have to consider transportation, and putting the required monitoring systems onto trucks, or airplanes.” – Andrew Schroeder, VP of research & analysis at Direct Relief 

“As the vaccines are rolled out, it is important to ensure that we have a system that functions well in each country. We know that there are unique data challenges and formidable challenges regarding the existing infrastructures that are so variable across countries.” Dr. Samira Asma

On Participation from Companies in Delivering Vaccines: “There are very large employers in this country and throughout the world that can be extremely helpful, and help with logistics, with technology, and much more. Every business is not the same, though. Airlines will have a different set of responsibilities, meat packing plants will have a different responsibility, and healthcare systems will have a different responsibility.” – Dr. Saad Omer, Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health 

On the Necessary Numbers of Healthcare Workers: “There have to be health workers at the other end that are trained in how to administer vaccines at the scale that we’re talking about. It’s not actually entirely clear that we have enough health workers that are trained to actually administer these vaccines, and how we improve training conditions for the global health workforce is going to be, I think, a pretty significant piece of the puzzle as we go forward.” – Andrew Schroeder

On the Challenge of Managing All of the Data: “It’s important to establish standard procedures for monitoring various critical planning and implementation elements, including performance targets, resourcing, staffing and more. I think it is going to be very crucial for us to do vaccine distribution modeling analyses so that we can make data-driven decisions.” – Dr. Samira Asma

Learn more about Salesforce’s initiative to mobilize, manage, and scale vaccine administration efficiently and effectively.


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