Private Sector Stepping in to Fix Government-Created Vaccine Distribution Mess
The ongoing and potentially dangerous government failure to deliver coronavirus vaccines effectively – never mind efficiently – is generating two, natural responses.
The first: black markets, where vaccines go to the highest bidders, the most connected, and often both:
“At least three South Florida hospital systems—Jackson Health, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Baptist Health—have already reached out and offered vaccines to some donors in advance of the general public,” the Miami Herald reported in early January. David S. Mack, the chairman of a Florida nursing home, reportedly arranged for wealthy friends—some who flew in on private jets from New York—to get shots ahead of the pack.
A politicized vaccine distribution process intended to take price out of the picture has given the edge to the rich and powerful.
The second: private industry gets fed up, and decides it’s time to show government how to do logistics:
This weekend, [a group of North Carolina-based company executives] plans to open a drive-through vaccination center at the Charlotte Motor Speedway to pilot some of their ideas. All 15,000 appointments for that three-day event have been filled, and Honeywell is contacting its Charlotte-based staff for volunteers to greet patients, help with registration and work on data entry.
The speedway trial will require about 565 people each day to run, including nurses, parking helpers, security, emergency medical and other staff. Estimates for the workers needed at the football stadium are still being determined, a Honeywell spokesman said.
Moving recipients through vaccine sites more quickly will likely require the cadence of an assembly line, Honeywell executives say, along with better systems for collecting recipients’ information and managing inventory. The group has considered appointment-making systems such as those used for concert and sports ticketing.
And plenty of business tech – and common sense – will also be deployed to keep things moving:
Plans are still being completed, but they will likely eliminate on-site patient paperwork, use Honeywell bar codes and scanners to process documents, and avoid manual data entry within a state-reporting portal. Patients will be asked to fill out their details online before they arrive, and will be given directions for where to report at vaccine sites. They will receive a bar code for administrators to scan when it is time to receive their shot.
Honeywell will dedicate some call-center capacity to field questions from vaccine seekers. It will also rely on its track-and-trace software and expertise to design appointments and the layout of the new sites, so that several doses can be administered every minute. At the racetrack site, Honeywell plans to use an automated car-counting system to monitor how cars move through the process and highlight bottlenecks.
Will there be bottlenecks, mix-ups, and confusion? In the initial rollout, probably so. But unlike government, which is painfully slow, or utterly unable. to learn from its failures, private enterprise has problem-solving built into its DNA.
If the private sector steps up in a big way, it can overcome the massive government failure we’ve witnessed – and help bring the country closer, faster, to corralling the coronavirus.