It’s no secret: COVID-19 vaccine demand continues to outpace supply. Life sciences companies are on the hook to rapidly produce and deliver their COVID-19 vaccines. State and local governments are responsible for the last mile – getting precious vaccines from vials to syringes and into human arms as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What’s the best way to make that happen?

Based on our discussions with various jurisdictions, state and local governments initially aimed to onboard as many providers as possible – in other words, to mobilize local vaccination networks. In theory, a distributed model makes a lot of sense because it taps into existing provider infrastructures for rapid scalability. In practice, however, the distributed approach has resulted in some hiccups. The nuances of COVID-19 vaccines, including the cold-chain requirements and the need to manage two doses per patient, can introduce management challenges in a distributed model. 

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We have observed the emergence of an additional option: a centralized model, with COVID-19 vaccine “mega centers” being launched in massive venues. These include New York City’s Javits Center, San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Boston’s Fenway Park and Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, to name just a few on a fast-growing list. 

These mega centers provide a focal point for addressing the complex last-mile requirements of COVID-19 vaccines. They offer the physical footprint necessary to handle large quantities of patients while enabling physical distancing. And the individuals who staff these centers become experts in the end-to-end workflows – including meeting reporting requirements.

While these centers are not intended to replace the important role of individual providers or practices – especially those serving smaller, more rural communities or underserved communities in cities – they hold great promise as a core component of the last mile of the vaccine supply chain. This shift from distributed to centralized centers also reinforces another important lesson we’ve learned in supporting numerous states in managing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines: Flexibility is key.

We know that viruses thrive by mutating; we need to be equally adaptive in managing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines. That includes knowing when to update distribution plans, ensuring equitable distribution is achieved and having full visibility into the performance of every site in your network. You need to be able to understand how quickly and effectively each site – from a small practice to a large center – is administering vaccines and identify opportunities to reprioritize how limited resources are distributed. Capturing and analyzing the right data will make this possible.

Departments of Health don’t have the power to produce more vaccines, but these state and local teams do have the ability to be fast, flexible and agile in how they manage their links in the supply chain.

In the next post, I will explore another key challenge – education and engagement. Until then, let’s stay in touch via LinkedIn.


Read other blogs in this series:


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Vaccine platform: Design for scale 

An adaptable vaccine platform is critical to the tasks demanded. Read more.


Strengthen COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Eyal Darmon and Kristin Thorn kick off a blog series about COVID-19 vaccines distribution. Read more.

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Kristin Thorn

Managing Director – Consulting, Public Sector Health Lead, North America

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