Article: LA Tech students break down how supply chains will impact vaccine distribution

Jan 7, 2021 | Business, Impact

Note: This segment aired on Fox14 news on Jan. 7, 2021. 

As the general public waits for their turn to take the coronavirus vaccine, doses are already being shipped to healthcare workers and older citizens.

In order for the vaccines to be effective, they have to be distributed properly. Bailey Edwards, Louisiana Tech Sustainable Supply Chain Management major, said this is materials can go to waste.

“So with the possibility of someone taking out a dosage or forgetting about it or taking something that they didn’t know that was mislabeled they can cause a lot of waste and it’s going to be very hard to track those mistakes,” Edwards said.

Dr. Kevin Watson, LA Tech Sustainable Supply Chain Management professor, said all of the items needed for the vaccine are being shipped separately. The vaccine, paraphernalia, and the patient all have to be there at the same time. He said this can cause a traffic problem if they aren’t scheduled properly.

Dr. Watson said rural areas also don’t have the capacity to keep the vaccines cold enough to store them.

“It’s going to be very difficult for those people living there to have access to it,” Dr. Watson said. “The government is going to have to determine some way to ship the vaccine into those rural areas in order to make sure that the population can be vaccinated.”

Students said there is a positive side for companies. John Spence said through the vaccine distribution, companies can create a competitive advantage by implementing a sustainable supply chain to keep up with the demand.

“It’s going to be something hard to do because realistically we have never done this before,” Spence said. “The only way that they can really control and keep up with demand is by hiring more workers, so as they fall due to COVID and getting positive tests and things like that they have people to fill in their place.”

John Garrett Smith said he believes this is the largest humanitarian crisis the world has seen because of the way it’s being handled logistically.

“Everybody in the world needs this stuff right now and just how other countries have handles this just isn’t working,” Smith said. “I realistically see this ending probably early 2022 just because we don’t have the capacity to produce the vaccines to get out there.”

Dr. Watson said another thing to keep in mind is the dry ice shortage. He said while it’s being prioritized for the vaccines, this will also effect other things that need dry ice to be transported, like cheese or even flowers for Valentine’s Day.