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Sylvie Thompson, vice president-transformation with NTT Data Services, proposes a “Starbucks-instead-of-stadium” approach to distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine.
Efficient vaccination of the entire country requires a “community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood” approach, Thompson says. She notes the irony of instructing Americans to stay at home and avoid crowds for months, then telling them to go to Dodger Stadium for a vaccination. “We have to be very conscious of the message that we send,” she says.
To Thompson, the vaccine rollout most resembles a direct-to-consumer supply chain, with heavy emphasis on the efficiency of last-mile delivery. That often means setting up smaller distribution sites, many of them in urban areas, in order to “tackle things in smaller, bite-sized chunks.” Smaller facilities have a better grasp of exactly how much product they need for a given day, and can therefore do a better job of balancing supply and demand. “At the end of the day, supply chains are complex math problems,” Thompson says. “If you can reduce variability, you become more efficient.”
Smaller sites could consist of any number of different locations, including retail stores, restaurants, churches, community centers and pharmacies. “You need to go to where people feel most comfortable, and where you can establish a consistent site,” Thompson says.
She believes the challenges of securing and training the appropriate healthcare professionals, as well as protecting the integrity of a highly temperature-sensitive product, can be better addressed through multiple smaller venues, rather than megasites. Workers at small storefronts already are trained in tracking, receiving and handling large amounts of product each day. Moreover, Thompson says, the “Starbucks” approach would do a better job of reaching remote rural locations, in tackling “the largest single supply-chain challenge that we in the modern world have ever faced.”
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