Canada Last Mile Expert on Vaccine Distribution Challenges When Your Country Does Not Produce Domestically

This episode of The Vaccine Challenge is hosted by Priyanka and features Gary Newbury - an Interim Executive and a Last Mile Expert in Canada.

2020 was all about the pandemic. 2021 is all about the COVID-19 vaccines.

With different pharma companies rolling out their respective vaccines consisting of various types of storage requirements, we talk to Gary about the developments in this space from a vaccine distribution perspective and what kind of challenges a country like Canada, where they have to completely rely on international production for their vaccine stocks, faces.

Topics touched upon:

What macro challenges does Canada face in terms of vaccine distribution:

  • The political angle of vaccine distribution and how “vaccine nationalism” is going to be a real thing. Economies can get restarted if the population is vaccinated and there’s a serious race to get there first

  • Population density in Canada is 3 people per square km - despite the fact that it is the second largest country in the world. England in comparison is 250 people per square km.

  • Also, Canada doesn’t have its own production capability which means it completely has to rely on international production which is subject to international logistics challenges too

  • Canada has a contract for 500 million vaccines signed up in Jan. The population of Canada is only 38mn. There’s a very political dimension to this whole situation and it's difficult to know how it’s all going to play out.

Where the biggest bottlenecks are:

  • The bottlenecks keep moving around. If there is production today, that might be a problem later. If there is good administration today, that might be a problem tomorrow.

  • Air freight capacity is really tight - because port congestion means other stuff is being put on flights. There is lesser crew availability too.

  • Can’t really line up and plan until the vaccine gets into Canadian soil. There is no way to guarantee that it WILL come as there is too much uncertainty. We can have right syringes PPE etc. but till you get the vaccines in hand, you can’t start putting plans in play.

  • What also ends up happening is that you use half vaccines, put the rest in the fridge to give the second doze to those that got the first doze because you cannot guarantee if the vaccines will come on time. So the number of people who can get vaccinated within a certain timeframe get cut in half.