The vaccine rollout involves literally millions upon millions of single injections that need to arrive at their destination; be kept cold (or not) through the entire journey; be broken down into smaller batches; sent into cities and towns across the country and then into the hands and fridges of administrators. They then require people to line up one by one to be recorded, injected and some weeks later, a repeat injection to be administered.
This may sound simple but the logistics and complexity of us getting basic everyday medical supplies to every part of the country is a big challenge in itself, despite a pandemic-level vaccine rollout. Add to that problems around anti vax sentiments together with a lack of information and rural scepticism in terms of western medicine, which may well mean people won’t be lining up. The program rollout will need to educate and corral with a need for clear explanations at point of sale.
I personally have mapped out a lot of this journey, not because I’m an expert in vaccination programs but because I’ve been living and breathing FMCG supply chains to the end consumer for more than 20 years. Take milk for example – there is no harder task than getting fresh milk into a consumer’s fridge via a massive store network. Granted people want the milk, I’m just not sure how many people want the vaccine.
That is why I believe there is no better platform to help get the vaccine to the people, than the retail distribution networks. The Shoprite Group, as a South African example, probably have a better penetration into rural South Africa than electricity or water does. Just let that sink in for a minute. They have this massive capillary network to move fresh and dry groceries in and out of the population like arteries to and from the heart. I know because we have people as the arms and legs of this nationwide network just waiting for those products to be able to put them on shelves; to support the product with the correct information and ensure attractive point of sale for people to purchase.
If I were in government, I would turn to the retailers for help as they are used to these types of mass rollouts along with being able to collect and collate relevant data. COVID has certainly taught us over the past year, the potential that lies in public, government and private partnerships that is why if I were sitting in President Biden’s chair I would pick up the phone to Andy Jassy who has just replaced Jeff Bezos as CEO of Amazon and Doug McMillon CEO of Walmart and give them full control over the vaccine distribution. They would have it done in a few weeks. On that note, I see Amazon has just offered to help and that Walmart has as recently as last month been enlisted to distribute via their
I know for a fact that if Hindustan Unilever can get a tiny packet of washing powder to a million rural Indian villages for their Shakti micro entrepreneurs to sell, they can get a vaccine to pretty much anywhere in the world and effectively track exactly how this was done. Again, I know this because we oversee this program in India for HUL. I can only imagine how their purpose-led CEO Alan Jope and his team would jump at the opportunity to be part of this global rollout.