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H1N1 Vaccine Supplies: Fixing Supply and Demand Imbalances- Post Two Update

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In our last Supply Chain Matters commentary on the topic of H1N1 vaccine availability in the U.S. on October 28th, we touched upon the then current imbalance in providing adequate supplies of the H1N1 vaccine.  Since we are now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the U.S. where lots of families gather together, I thought it would be an appropriate time to provide an update on what the U.S. government is indicating as availability of the vaccine.  From my perspective, the picture of availability looks far better, but certain logistical challenges remain.

The status update as of November 23, 2009, indicates that close to 59 million cumulative doses of vaccine were available at government distribution depots for shipment to individual states.  Of that number, slightly over 49.5 million doses have been shipped out to state distribution sites.  Compare that to the October 28 status of 16.8 million doses shipped, and we can conclude that the availability picture is getting much better in terms of the ability to administer vaccine to the high priority and broader population. A visual look at the CDC’s allocation vs. shipped availability graph indicates to me that the current challenge is more than likely the logistical challenges of getting these larger amounts of vaccine from government distribution depots into individual health centers for administering the vaccine to candidates. 

My suspicion is that the overall availability of H1N1 vaccine will get a lot better during the month of December as manufacturers continue to complete shipments from production sources and supplies make their way to final destinations.  The U.S. government has purchased a total of 250 million doses of flu vaccine. That may be little comfort to those who are traveling this coming week and weekend, but the message is be patient, the supply situation, from my perspective, looks to be improving.  Perhaps we might be able to look forward to having ample availability of the H1N1flu vaccine by mid to late December, hopefully prior to the December and January holiday periods when families once again travel and congregate.

As for the normal seasonal flu vaccine availability, we will all have to wait until manufacturers shift their attention to distribution of that vaccine to government agencies, which looks to be much later in the upcoming influenza season.

 Bob Ferrari

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  1. Actually, Bob, the H1N1 virus has two potential impacts on the Supply Chain. On the one hand, the vaccine needs to reach the people fast enough, and that is what you talk about, but on the other, if the virus really strikes as expected, the human capacities to run our supply chains may be drastically reduced. I do not hear many companies discussing that these days. So, will be interesting to watch what is happening.

  2. Bob Ferrari says:

    Christian,

    Great to hear from you and thanks for sharing your comments and observations. While my posting was not intended to focus on the overall impact of an H1N1 outbreak on global supply chains, I do agree that tools such as scenario planning can play an important role in risk mitigation or business continuity planning.

    Bob Ferrari

  3. If you look at the pandemic of 1977, when H1N1 or Swine Flu re-emerged after a 20 year absence, there is no shift in age-related mortality pattern. The 1977 “pandemic” is, of course, not considered a true pandemic by experts today, for reasons that are not entierely consistent. It certainly was an antigenic shift and not an antigenic drift. As far as I have been able to follow the current events, the most significant factor seems to have been that most people, who were severely affected, were people with other medical conditions.

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