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Debates in Development

Will the Demands of COVID-19 on Supply Chains Bring Lasting Transformations, or Is It a Passing Train?

Moderated by CGD President Masood Ahmed

COVID-19 has disrupted nearly all facets of human life; how we learn, work, socialize, engage in commerce, and more. But prior to the pandemic, most of us didn’t give much thought to how our food or cleaning products end up on store shelves, or what it took for our medications to be available for pickup at the pharmacy.

We’ve also seen firsthand the shortages afflicting doctors, nurses, and other frontline health workers trying to save lives while also keeping themselves safe. We wrongly assumed items like masks, gowns, gloves, and other protective equipment were in ample supply as needed.

For our first Debates in Development since the outbreak of the pandemic, CGD senior fellow Prashant Yadav and three other experts talk about the longer-term implications of COVID-19's impact on the global health supply chain and whether the crisis presents opportunities to make long-discussed reforms up and down the line.

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In conclusion

Photo of Prashant Yadav

Yadav’s work focuses on improving healthcare supply chains and designing better supply chains for products with social benefits. Over the last 15 years, Yadav has worked closely with country governments and global organizations in improving supply chains for medicines and health products.

The global medical supply chain is having its moment of visibility. But how long will this last? Will it lead to consequential and lasting improvements? The reflections on these question—both from our four debate experts and comments across social media—have some convergence.

Twitter poll where 25.7% voted for short-lived improvement, 37.1% voted for minimal improvement, 31.4% voted for wide & sturdy improvement, and 5.7% voted for worsened performance on post-covid global health supply chains.

The consensus is that, left to its own, changes in the global medical supply chain would be minimal and short-lived. Many companies in the medical supply chain are looking to incorporate visibility and risk management into their supply chains but will public and private payers value those changes? There is agreement that the answer largely depends on whether we all can collectively convince government and industry leaders to act on this in a meaningful way. As Taylor Wilkerson of MITRE Corp said, “The biggest hurdle to widespread post COVID-19 supply chain improvements is they require significant resourcing.” Will government and industry leaders adequately resource such improvements? Will they overcome nationalistic divisions and work on pooling demand and supply? I stay on the side of cautious optimism.

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About the Experts

Photo of Prashant Yadav

Yadav’s work focuses on improving healthcare supply chains and designing better supply chains for products with social benefits. Over the last 15 years, Yadav has worked closely with country governments and global organizations in improving supply chains for medicines and health products.

Iain Barton

Iain Barton is an expert in developing and implementing best practices for global health. A committed South African, Iain is a medical doctor with 10 years clinical practice and 20 years in healthcare business management, specializing in pharmaceutical supply and market shaping.

Pinar Keskinocak

Pinar Keskinocak’s research focuses on applications of operations research and management science with societal impact and supply chain management. She is actively engaged in research and applications in healthcare and humanitarian logistics.

Bindiya Vakil

Bindiya Vakil is a recognized thought leader in the area of supply chain risk management from companies like Cisco and Flextronics. She is credited with bringing SCRM solutions into the mainstream since founding Resilinc in 2010. She holds the patent for evaluating supply chain vulnerability and risk of an enterprise.