Creating a global supply network to address extraordinary public health emergencies of international concern
The 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak demonstrated that the world must improve its ability to effectively respond to pandemics. The crux of a successful pandemic response is available supply and timely delivery of medical supplies to treat patients and protect health workers. Without a supply chain, there are no supplies. Without supplies, there is no response. Despite this fact and the high probability that the world will experience a severe outbreak in the next 10-15 years, the international community remains vulnerable in a truly critical area of pandemic response: supply chain and logistics.
The Pandemic Supply Chain Network (PSCN) was created following the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos in January 2015. Participants expressed the need for better coordination across sectors to enhance global pandemic response capabilities. Recognizing that a large share of the cost of a pandemic relates to supplies, and a delay in the delivery of supplies seriously compromises the effectiveness of health interventions, the PSCN focuses on supply chain improvements.
Areas of Work
Understanding the geographic distribution of outbreak vulnerability across the globe is an important aspect of pandemic preparedness. The vulnerability of a country to a major infectious disease outbreak depends on pathogen characteristics, demographic considerations, and a country's capacity to respond to the outbreak. The PSCN has begun work to map global pandemic risks and vulnerabilities.
Pre-positioning of critical items in strategic reserves can help to improve both the speed and the effectiveness of an outbreak response. However, knowledge about public reserves around the globe is very limited. The PSCN has worked to map physical supplies held by national governments, international organizations and other actors that can be deployed during pandemic crises.
Procurement of critical medical supplies for the Ebola response was complicated by the fact that partners did not know with sufficient specificity which products were needed. Therefore, an important aspect of preparedness is to identify a list of critical supplies and agree on specifications. The PSCN has developed a list of the top 60 critical items aligned with the top 10 diseases of pandemic concern.
Effective pandemic response relies on strong logistics planning and capacities - both upstream and downstream. The PSCN has engaged in a number of efforts to improve both upstream and downstream logistics. Progress includes pre-identification of upstream sea and air routes, assessing options for consolidation hubs, and improving downstream logistics capacities to augment limited national capacities in vulnerable countries.
Critical items held by the private sector are a key source of inventory during an outbreak. Virtual supplies refer to commercial stocks and production capacities of manufacturers. To improve visibility of virtual supplies, the PSCN has mapped producers of critical items and reviewed mechanisms for ensuring access to stock during an outbreak, including Long Term Agreements and financial guarantees.
There is currently no information system that provides end-to-end visibility of supply chains for pandemic preparedness and response. More broadly, all humanitarian supply chains are vulnerable to suboptimal information sharing and coordination. Within the PSCN, a sub-group has formed to work on developing a collaborative information platform to share key information and improve visibility across supply chains and between stakeholders.