Match Supply and Demand in COVID Vaccine Supply Chain

Written by Doug Hamrick and Mike Bell

Three people in a warehouse wearing protective gear, with one person holding and writing on a clipboard.

How to scale up COVID-19 vaccine rollout at mega-sites

Matching COVID-19 vaccine supply to demand has been an ongoing struggle for state and local health agencies. Currently, they’re using a variety of scheduling systems for vaccine administration, but the platforms weren’t designed to handle the volume of people and locations required to meet vaccination objectives. Vaccine demand continues to outstrip vaccine supply, but with more vaccine doses on the way, scaling existing processes to use them will create additional supply chain challenges.

How Vaccine Supply Can Keep Up with Demand

As health authorities expand their vaccine rollouts to more eligible candidates, they must first balance vaccine supply with the population demand, or else scheduling systems will continue to create frustration for end users trying to get appointments to receive a COVID vaccine. To address this difficult supply chain challenge, they must dig deeper to understand these two critical metrics: 1) the supply of vaccine, both currently on hand and forecasted over time (including increases in availability) and 2) the number of people that are eligible and willing to receive the vaccine. The two elements must be aligned for the vaccine supply chain to meet the demands of the population.

Since the current constraint of the COVID vaccine supply chain is vaccine availability, it’s important to balance the number of people scheduled to be vaccinated with the availability of vaccine doses in varying time windows, such as immediate (by hour and day) and medium term (by week and month). Once vaccine supply volumes begin to increase, and to guard against wasting vaccine, special care must be taken to provide only the amount of vaccine required to meet the specific demand in a given time period.

Scaling Up at Vaccination Mega-Sites

States could use current scheduling systems to provide windows of time for people to line up at mega-vaccinations clinics. Eligible candidates would need to go online to qualify for their shot and get their window of time assigned. The mega-site would only distribute the same number of tickets as vaccine doses on hand for a specific day. Setting up a scheduling system that forecasts demand for 30-60-90 day increments will also help define the volume of vaccines needed. These forecasts would also be used to determine labor requirements (both clerical and clinical) to meet the demand and stay on track. Booz Allen's COVID-19 Vaccination Workforce Simulator can help state officials estimate workforce staffing needs as vaccine distribution increases.

Upon arrival to a mega-site, candidates would receive a ticket from the facility “box office,” enter the facility, and stand in their designated line for a specific vaccine station. This would also help manage the flow of people at the mega-site. Just as concert goers and sports fans (demand) get a ticket to attend an event based on how many seats (supply) are available, health agencies would use the same control mechanisms—the ticket a candidate receives—to scale vaccination sites up and down if supply is limited.

In addition, states could allow eligible candidates to sign up for a COVID vaccine standby pool. Using a standby pool would ensure all vaccine doses on hand were administered every day—leaving none to go to waste at the end of the day.

Matching vaccine demand to supply of available doses through these processes would help create an integrated and connected supply chain. Health agencies would have greater visibility into vaccine supply chain efficiency, allowing them to adjust schedules and ease frustration for healthcare workers and vaccine seekers alike. 

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