Supply, Distribution Logistics Key to Countries’ COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

Israel has managed to administer at least one coronavirus vaccine to 60 out of every 100 of its residents as of Wednesday, according to figures compiled by the research and data analysis website Our World in Data. On a per capita basis, Israel’s coronavirus vaccination performance is the best in the world.

Other standout nations include the United Arab Emirates — which reported administering vaccines to 36 out of every 100 residents — the United Kingdom, Bahrain and the U.S., which were reporting vaccination rates of approximately 15.5, 10.3 and 10.1 per 100 residents, respectively, on Wednesday.

While several Middle Eastern countries are outperforming peers in other regions, their population sizes should be taken into account when comparing them with countries with much larger populations like the U.S., according to Tinglong Dai, associate professor of operations management and business analytics at the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School.

Israel and the U.A.E. are “really small,” he says, and have populations “about the same size as New Jersey.” According to the World Bank, Israel’s population in 2019 was just over 9 million. The U.A.E.’s population that same year was estimated at 9.7 million, while New Jersey’s 2019 population was 8.8 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In contrast, the next leading nations — the U.K. and U.S. — with 2019 populations of 66.8 million and 328.2 million, respectively, according to World Bank estimates, present a much greater challenge in terms of widespread vaccination efforts.

And these two countries have radically different approaches to getting their residents vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Dai.

He praises the U.K.’s National Health Service, and says the U.K. probably has “one of the most centralized (vaccine) distribution efforts in the world,” thanks to the agency. “The NHS knows who these people are that are getting the vaccine. The NHS notifies people when it is their turn. It’s much more streamlined compared to what we have here in the U.S.”

The NHS website indicates that vaccination efforts are currently geared toward Britons most at risk to the coronavirus — including those who are at least 70 years old, have underlying clinical vulnerabilities, and health care and social workers. The British health agency then contacts eligible recipients via letter, text or email and prompts them to schedule a vaccination appointment.

In contrast, Dai says that in the U.S., “we have this really complicated patchwork of signup systems that connects people with vaccines.” He points out that the American vaccination signup process requires “Senior citizens (who are often not tech savvy) going through websites and portals to get appointments. … (In the U.K.,) citizens don’t have to do anything. In the U.S., our citizens are working too hard to get an appointment.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has likewise staggered its recommendations on vaccine eligibility — first, focusing on health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities — and then expanding to firefighters, police and other essential workers as well as Americans aged 75 or older.

But unlike the U.K.’s NHS, the CDC web portal directs users to the individual health agency in their state, which then prompts them to register for a vaccine if eligible.

Dai attributes Israel’s success with vaccination rollout to the versatility of its Health Management Organizations. He says every Israeli citizen is mandated to join one of four HMOs, and are allowed to switch among them every six months.

“It’s like the government allowing people to join streaming services” and switch freely between Netflix, Hulu or Disney+, depending on their preference, Dai notes. It “incentivizes competition between HMOs, which play a central role in coordinating the vaccination process. … HMOs know everything about their members,” and both identify those eligible for the vaccines as well as notify them when they can register.

He also points out that Israel has made coronavirus vaccines available to citizens between 16 and 18 years old.

Data indicate that after the U.S., a sharp drop off occurs in per capita vaccination rates among leading countries — the next best-performing nations are Romania, Lithuania and Italy, which respectively reported coronavirus vaccination rates of roughly 4, 3.9 and 3.7 per 100 residents on Wednesday.

“The Euro bloc is doing very poorly,” Dai says. Their “supply is bad. … They’ve kind of delegated acquisition to European Commission, which isn’t a really skilled negotiator. … They have to evaluate pros and cons, evaluate costs.”

Despite the decentralized approach in the U.S., Dai says he’s optimistic about more Americans having ready access to the coronavirus vaccines in coming months.

The U.S. is “improving,” he says. “We’re getting better and better. Two or three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have said the same thing. We have a lot of chaos and problems, but as rollout continues, more and more pharmacies and clinics are giving shots to people. … By the end of spring, or early summer,” the U.S. should be at a point where vaccines are readily available.

More from U.S. News

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Supply, Distribution Logistics Key to Countries’ COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts originally appeared on usnews.com

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