Companies take diverse approaches to aligning supply
Aligning supply and demand
Vaccine demand can outstrip supply for a range of reasons, including unexpected outbreaks, inaccurate demand forecasting and manufacturing interruptions. In recent years, many countries have reported vaccine shortages. These can disrupt immunisation programmes, putting herd immunity at risk and increasing the chance of outbreaks. While coordination between stakeholders is needed to address shortages, vaccine companies can take specific actions to help prevent them (see figure 11). The Access to Vaccines Index has evaluated the approaches taken in this area by six companies: GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc., Pfizer, Sanofi and Serum Institute of India.
Four companies take strong approaches
Four of the companies take comparatively strong approaches to aligning vaccine supply with global demand: GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc. and Sanofi. Their approaches are deemed strong because their internal processes for aligning supply and demand include four or more of the eight elements the Index has identified as key to improving supply, and because they commit to staying in vaccine markets where there are few or no other suppliers and/or to communicating when they plan to reduce or cease supply of a vaccine (see figure 11).
All six companies implement a combination of the elements assessed. No particular combination is identified as best practice, but implementing more elements is expected to better prevent shortages. Each company’s approach is likely to be linked to its portfolio, structure and business model. Five companies regularly review levels of supply and demand, and four have processes for scaling up production when shortages are forecast. Five also commit to continuing to supply needed vaccines, and/or to notifying stakeholders when planning to reduce supply. As vaccines for specific diseases may have few suppliers, such commitments help to increase accountability and provide confidence around supply. Where companies do exit markets, providing stakeholders with early notice can allow other suppliers’ production and distribution plans to be adjusted to minimise negative impacts on public health.
All companies take some action to align supply and demand
All six companies are taking action to align supply with demand, which suggests that vaccine shortages are, in some cases, being detected, mitigated and/or prevented. The existence of ongoing vaccine shortages, however, shows that more needs to be done. The industry needs to continuously monitor and improve its approaches to preventing shortages, for instance by considering how they can implement the key actions shown in figure 11. Other stakeholders also need to play their part, with clear, accurate and timely demand forecasting supported by sustainable purchasing commitments where possible.