Johnson & Johnson's vaccine has some unique features that make it the single best tool for ending the pandemic

  • The new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most efficient tools available for ending the pandemic.
  • This vaccine can be produced quickly using existing production technology, can be shipped much more easily, and only requires a single syringe and no follow-up appointments.
  • Transparency is the key to success in the vaccination effort; the Biden administration must offer transparency into future shipping data so states can plan appropriately.
  • Sanchoy Das is a professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In years to come, the COVID-19 vaccination rollout will be seen as a historic effort between the public and private sector, but for now, the Biden administration and states have their work cut out for them. Vaccinating an entire country is no easy feat; it requires coordinated planning between manufacturers and distributors, and a successful rollout can only occur with a strong, transparent supply chain. The logistical requirements for production and the increased public demand for timely vaccinations are at an unprecedented scale, but the approval of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine may be the jolt this effort needs.

Injecting optimism in our supply chain

From a supply chain perspective, the J&J vaccine is one of the most efficient tools available for accelerating the end of the pandemic. The newly authorized vaccine creates supply chain benefits that allow for fast, efficient, and safe production, and production of any vaccine is the first step to the pandemic’s end. However, unleashing the full potential of the J&J vaccine to reach target vaccination goals will depend on transparent distribution and planning by the federal government and states.

The J&J vaccine offers several advantages for realizing vaccination goals. The vaccines currently in production – the mRNA Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – were developed faster but require technological upgrades for some existing production facilities. The J&J vaccine, on the other hand, mirrors the types of vaccines that have been produced for years and years, so existing plants can start making it right away – with the potential of producing 100 million doses for the US vaccine supply chain from mid-March to June. Once produced, the J&J vaccine will be easier to store and ship, as existing cold chain technology will suffice and extremely cold facilities will not be necessary.

A single-shot vaccine such as the J&J vaccine also creates fewer logistical challenges for both distributors and patients. President Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act, increasing production of medical supplies such as syringes. Single-shot vaccines conveniently only require one syringe. Multiply those savings by the millions, and it reduces production time, energy, and resources. In turn, states won’t need to expend energy on coordinating follow-up appointments or calculating the storage of second doses as is currently required by other vaccines. The single dose provides an opportunity to ramp-up the mega vaccination sites, since patient-tracking is not needed; these sites could potentially allow people to simply walk in for a vaccine

The J&J vaccine is a medical and supply chain marvel with great potential, but delivering maximum results will ultimately be history’s standard of judgment. At the end of the day, the impact of the J&J vaccine can only be measured by actual injected doses. To ensure a smooth process from production to vaccination, the federal government must over-communicate and offer significant transparency for states to plan ahead in making vaccination appointments. Supply chains are dependent on future shipment data, which means manufacturers will plan to produce based on the government’s forecast of need. In turn, vaccine appointments are planned based on the anticipated future stock. When those two forces are working seamlessly, the J&J vaccine can be at its most powerful. It’s up to the Biden administration to make good on its promise to provide four weeks of future visibility on vaccine shipments to states to allow for easy scheduling at mass vaccination sites.

Very soon, states will start moving into the phase of vaccinating extremely wide swaths of the population. It will be a massive effort to ensure the vaccine supply matches the increased demand created by that expanded pool of vaccination eligibility. The federal government and the states have an enormous opportunity with the J&J vaccine to get more shots in arms faster than ever before, but the key is to take advantage of the supply chain efficiencies created by planning ahead.

As demand continues to grow and eligibility increases, we need absolutely every tool possible to accelerate a return to normalcy – the J&J vaccine is key to meeting that need. Talking numbers – the efficient distribution of the J&J vaccine could have a huge positive impact on the vaccination timeline. The Biden administration should set a goal of 80 million by April 1 and 220 million by July 1. We could talk about normalcy by the end of summer as opposed to the end of the year.

Sanchoy Das is a professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology where he specializes in supply chain and logistics engineering.

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