Supply Chain

Importance of Maintaining your Supply Chain during the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout


An upsurge in demand has greeted the recent discovery of the COVID19 vaccine in the saddle, and as expected, the rollout of the vaccine has been met with challenges. In this article, we render valuable insight into efforts aimed at maintaining the supply chain of these vaccines and the role of SGS in flattening the curve of supply chain strains. 

Recurrent outbreaks of the COVID pandemic have precipitated an uptick in the production and distribution of COVID vaccines. Not only has an incredibly vast amount of resources been spent on the development of many COVID Vaccines (50 vaccines in the clinical trial stage so far, with only a few approvals). There have also been increased efforts from the pharmaceutical industry and other different governmental partners towards accelerating the rollout of these vaccines in light of a present need for urgency.

The normal vaccine production timeline spans a period of 8-15 years in total, with Research taking up to 2-4 years, Preclinical Preparation — 2 years, Clinical Trials — up to 5 years, Approval takes 1 year, Manufacturing — 2 years, and Distribution lasts a period of up to 3-6 months.

However, with the urgency for acceleration in product development and distribution of the vaccine, the timeline compresses. Most of these stages of the production process coincide or overlap.

United States

The supply chain strain in the U.S spans all 50 states, with administrative and health care system deficiencies struggling to distribute the already low amounts of vaccine that may have been produced. If anything, the scourge of the pandemic has worsened the current situation, with the second wave of COVID19 undoing all of the distribution work being carried out and worsening recurring shortages of essential drugs needed to treat COVID19 patients.

Fundamentally, this problem is triggered by the large-scale offshoring of COVID generic drugs and ingredients to countries like India and China, by Big Pharma to reduce costs. This supply chain challenge has been met with implications that spell threat to national security and health.


In Europe, The EMA (European Medicines Agency) delayed approval of Pfizer’s COVID19 Vaccine until nearly 3 weeks after the UK did the same — December 21, 2020. Approval for all three Vaccine Manufacturers in the EU arrived not until late January. When it did, they announced delays to their delivery schedules.

African Countries languish on the receiving end of delay in distribution, and as such, are turning to world powers like China and Russia. They are leveraging their diplomatic strength as ‘Vaccine donors’ to expand their sphere of influence in these parts of the world. So far, the progress reports in these smaller countries have been grossly underwhelming.

Campaigners and some officials attribute these causes to the dominance that wealthy nations wield in the field of medicine logistics — where some developed nations make orders for more vaccines than necessary and, in some cases, venture into an outright hoarding of these vaccines.


A strained supply chain can frustrate hospital operations and patient care, hence the importance of planning out and enforcing supply chain initiatives to combat these challenges.

The role of big pharmaceutical companies in combating supply shortage and insurance global level supply of high-quality medicines cannot be overemphasized. It becomes even more pronounced in third-world countries with shortcomings in logistics that make their population hard to reach.

Supply Chain Initiatives Report

Based on findings, companies have played a massive role in maintaining accessibility by sharing resources and initiatives like cold-chain supply, intellectual property, data-sharing and expertise, and voluntary donations. Access to Medical Index issued a report on the activities of 20 pharma companies to increase accessibility to vaccines, medicine, and medical services, especially in low and middle-income countries.

This index also issues a guide from multinational pharmaceutical companies to increase accessibility, help economically disadvantaged countries, and increase their long-term business sustainability.

In comparison with 2018,  the index found 6.7% less manufacturing capacity initiatives (42) and 53.3% more supply chain capacity initiatives (46). A vast majority of the manufacturing capacity initiatives were based in emerging markets like India (16), China (10), and Brazil (12), with the supply chain initiatives predominantly based in Sub-saharan Africa.

Other initiatives include:

      1. Additional staffing and collaboration for local and global supply chain support

      2. Demand forecasting

      3. Additional stock of active pharmaceutical ingredients

SGS Solutions

With most health systems of the world still supported with resource allocation, the shortage of suppliers still led to a correspondent scarcity of products and cases of substandard or counterfeit products, especially in the Sub-Saharan African region. To combat this, SGS conducts supplier audits and forged alliances with Transparency-One — a platform built to partner with the network of companies supporting the world’s consumer product supply chain to create a healthier, safer, and more sustainable world for consumers.

SGS Supplier Audits help reduce disruptions to your business. As the global leader in audits and assessments, SGS is the preferred partner for executing your brand checklist that aligns to our best practice gained from experience of delivering these audits for 1000+ clients over 20 years. Our auditors are thoroughly trained on your criteria and deliver the audit as efficiently as possible, saving you time and money.

SGS Transparency-One solution enables companies to discover, analyze, and monitor suppliers, and facilities in their supply chain and uses real-time data to reduce risk. Using cutting edge, cloud-based technology and our global experience in supplier evaluation and certification, SGS Transparency-One helps organizations continually drive performance improvement.

With this, SGS can extend its arm of support to the global vaccine supply chain industry by maintaining accessibility. In doing this, we ensure that these vaccines are safe and they conform to regulatory & industry standards.



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