Scientists around the world have succeeded in developing and testing safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time. With multiple vaccines in market – and more expected soon – state and local governments are now running the next leg of the race: vaccine management and distribution.

Time is of the essence. From our perspective, so is equity.

Data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has not been equitable in its impacts. From the CDC website: “Across several studies, most found a higher percent of hospitalized patients were non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic or Latino people than non-Hispanic White people.” The CDC notes that socioeconomic, healthcare access and occupational factors have played a role in putting some people at greater risk of COVID-19. In addition to these factors, age also compounds risk – with people 65 and older at significantly higher risk of death from COVID-19.

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Given the disproportionate risks of contracting and dying from COVID-19, an equitable approach to vaccines needs to ensure a strong focus on the most vulnerable populations – establishing allocation frameworks that spell out the “who” and “when” of vaccination. Creating and executing these allocation frameworks represents a significant and urgent challenge.

And yet, ensuring equity is only one dimension of the complexity associated with COVID-19 vaccine management and distribution. In a National Governors Association poll of senior staff from various gubernatorial offices, 74% of respondents cited vaccine management as the biggest challenge for the next six months – suggesting they recognize the magnitude of the task at hand.

How can states and other local jurisdictions come through for the people they serve?

In addition to the focus on equity, it’s going to take a commitment to education and engagement. It’s going to take technology that’s designed to be dynamic. And it’s going to take supply chain agility and the expertise to get the right vaccines to the right place and people at the right time and, importantly, at the right temperature.

What is needed for effective vaccine management

Public health leaders need to engage effectively with populations that are incredibly diverse socio-economically, culturally and educationally. This needs to be done in a fluid landscape, as no one can predict what lies ahead – from how policy could evolve to new variants of the virus that may emerge.

Given those considerations, vaccine management solutions must be built for agility, designed around humans and inclusive of everything stakeholders need to execute across people, supply chain and technology. These solutions also need to reflect the reality that while jurisdictions will share much in common, there will be some local nuances that need to be addressed.

Vaccine management solutions must be built for agility, designed around humans and inclusive of everything stakeholders need to execute across people, supply chain and technology.

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Most of all, it’s going to take trust. According to Pew Research Center, as of December 2020, “Overall, 60% of Americans say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine for the coronavirus, if one were available today, up from 51% who said this in September.

“About four-in-ten (39%) say they definitely or probably would not get a coronavirus vaccine, though about half of this group – or 18% of U.S. adults – says it’s possible they would decide to get vaccinated once people start getting a vaccine and more information becomes available.” And yet, this research also found that 21% of U.S. adults do not intend to get vaccinated; what’s more, they remain “pretty certain” that additional information won’t change their minds.

In this series, we’re taking a closer look at the five components of any effective vaccine management solution and how Accenture is marshalling our resources from around the globe and across industries to help authorities tackle them:

  • Technology platform
  • Supply chain
  • Community education and engagement
  • Contact management
  • Analytics and reporting

Through experiences supporting 15 states, including California, Louisiana and Massachusetts, with COVID-19 contact tracing, we’ve learned the importance of establishing end-to-end governance so that as priorities change, the team and structures are in place to communicate, adjust and reprioritize. We recommend that same blend of structure and agility in working with state and local governments on vaccine management – and look forward to continuing to learn from and with our clients on preparing for all the dimensions of vaccine management and distribution.

With approved vaccines now available, Accenture is honored to be involved in helping communities restore and re-emerge from this extraordinary time.

Let’s continue the conversation. Connect with Eyal on LinkedIn and Kristin on LinkedIn and watch for upcoming blogs on COVID-19 vaccine management and distribution.

Eyal Darmon

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Public Service

Kristin Thorn

Public Sector Health Lead, North America

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