The World’s Supply Chain Isn’t Ready for a Covid-19 Vaccine

The World’s Supply Chain Isn’t Ready for a Covid-19 Vaccine

  • Freight companies say they need a coordinated strategy fast
  • Air cargo capacity has shrunk and shipping costs are elevated

The industries that shepherd goods around the world on ships, planes and trucks acknowledge they aren’t ready to handle the challenges of shipping an eventual Covid-19 vaccine from drugmakers to billions of people.

Already stretched thin by the pandemic, freight companies face problems ranging from shrinking capacity on container ships and cargo aircraft to a lack of visibility on when a vaccine will arrive. Shippers have struggled for years to reduce cumbersome paperwork and upgrade old technology that, unless addressed soon, will slow the relay race to transport fragile vials of medicine in unprecedented quantities.

Making a vaccine quickly is hard enough but distributing one worldwide offers a host of other variables, and conflicting forces may work against the effort: The infrastructure powering the global economy is scaling down for a protracted downturn just as pharmaceutical companies need to scale up for the biggest and most consequential product launch in modern history.