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Dispatch From the Director: The Logistics of Vaccine Distribution

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Denver Transportation Institute

Feature  •
david fisher

As we wait for our turn to get a vaccination, it is important to observe that some of our community in the transportation and supply chain space may soon be eligible in their area. Many rail and truck drivers, for example, are over 60 and have chronic health conditions that fall into the distribution categories. These everyday heroes need up-to-date information about their place in the line for vaccinations, especially since the protocols differ by state. To the managers and companies that make caring for their frontline workers a priority, we say thank you!
Not since the influenza pandemic of 1918 have so many people been impacted by a natural disaster such as this. We will be getting beyond this very unfortunate moment and soon be gathering up our lessons learned. No doubt there are, and will continue to be, many people who critique the current strategy led by federal and state governments, how the distribution plan rolled out, and how the prioritizations were determined.
At the University of Denver, we are teaching the leaders of tomorrow to observe the data and ask the question, “what is the problem we are trying to solve?”
For this pandemic, the objective is to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. It’s an interesting logistics challenge. From a purely logistics standpoint, more people involved usually means more layers. More layers translates into more risk of bottlenecking. It’s probably not a surprise that the states that have opted for little or minimal  involvement are currently tracking better from a vaccination completion rate than states that are fully involved in the details. The data thus far seems to indicate that direct distribution to providers like pharmacies and quasi-healthcare locations, even stadiums, is more efficient. Did we complicate things by having a complex sorting system when direct inoculations without registration and tracking have been working for decades? The main point is that complex distribution plans tend to create bottlenecks, confusion, and inefficiencies. We’ll likely be studying this moment for decades to come. 

Do you believe you could have created an efficient vaccine distribution plan? Let us know how you might have managed the distribution by emailing us at
David Fisher, Executive Director