Delivering COVID-19 vaccines to low and middle-income countries around the world in an effective and timely manner was never going to be straightforward. Distribution of routine vaccines in these countries is already fraught with supply chain inefficiencies and unreliable storage networks, particularly when considering the strict temperature controls often required to keep vaccines potent until the point of administration. Overlay the unprecedented circumstances we are faced with in this pandemic – urgency and demand – and an already challenging situation becomes even more complex.
Public and private sector organisations have had to collaborate in their efforts not only to ensure supply volumes are made available globally, but that vaccines can be distributed at the right time, under the required conditions. Disparity in infrastructure and supply chain sophistication should not limit our capability to be successful in this mission; but when things go wrong, we need the insurance sector to step in, both in deploying their risk management capabilities (such as storage facilities for the COVID-19 vaccine) to help prevent and minimise loss, and to underwrite the risks and ensure no one loses out.
To consider a practical example, if a consignment of COVID-19 vaccines was produced in Zurich for a client in Gambia, it might travel by truck, train, plane, and ship, with hand-offs in several jurisdictions before reaching its destination. The array of insurance products and services for a risk like that is significant, as indeed, are the sheer number of insurance market participants involved: insureds, co-assureds, brokers, and (re)insurers. And when something goes wrong, the number of parties involved expands further still.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for robust and trustworthy digital connectivity between all sectors involved in managing an effective supply chain; this includes the insurance market so that when things go wrong, there are remedies in place. What is clearer than ever, is that great technology will provide the connecting tissue between these sectors, meeting the complex needs of real time monitoring and transparent data sharing, and providing the verifiable audit trails the world needs to support rapid and effective distribution of vaccines to the most at risk.