BCG: How Business Can Help to Crush the Pandemic
To BCG’s network around the world,
Vaccine administration in many parts of the world, including the US, has been challenging to get off the ground, but I feel encouraged about the opportunity to accelerate progress in the months ahead. For one thing, all the vaccines—including the promising new entry from Johnson & Johnson—have something important in common: so far not one person who got the vaccine in the trials was hospitalized for or died from COVID-19. This gives me increasing comfort that vaccines really can bring an end to this pandemic.
To speed up the vaccination rate, which has to be a top priority, we need to focus on three fronts: ensuring there is enough supply of vaccine and that it moves as quickly as possible to administration sites; getting that supply into people’s arms, in part by relaxing prioritization criteria and optimizing inoculation operations; and increasing vaccine demand for as long as possible. I’d like to share some observations on each of these:
- Boosting Supply and Distribution. We’ve already witnessed the incredible work of pharmaceutical companies to create vaccines with unprecedented speed. Now we are likely to see vaccine supply dramatically accelerated over the next three to five months, along with continued progress on the distribution ramp-up in many countries and regions.
- Optimizing Administration. In the short term, mass vaccination sites are a critical part of the solution. Consider Honeywell, which has worked with the state of North Carolina in the US to create such a site at the Bank of America stadium where 20,000 people can be inoculated over the course of three days, with a goal of reaching 100,000 per week when operations run 24/7. As capacity expands, the aim will be to add more administration sites, such as large retailers, to reach tens of millions every month and ensure administration capacity is never the binding constraint.
- Driving Demand. We’re likely to see vaccine demand outpace supply for the first half of this year, but we need to drive demand well beyond this period. One approach is the work Business Roundtable is doing with the Ad Council to encourage broad vaccine uptake among the public. We need to see many more such examples, including actions by both governments and individual companies.
One of the most important and challenging questions will be whether some companies should mandate vaccinations, with health and religious exemptions, in order to keep their own operations safe and functioning more normally, as well as to help bring us all closer to herd immunity. In the weeks and months ahead, I think many leadership teams will be debating this and other strategies to accelerate and track vaccinations in the workplace.
- Pursuing Equitable Vaccination Across All Fronts. COVID-19 has hit communities of color especially hard. Now that challenge is compounded by a mistrust of vaccine programs, rooted in history, as well as access barriers. Key to the success of vaccine uptake will be effective and tailored messaging, along with equitable distribution of vaccines and a relentless focus on access. Governments, with business support, have to get that balance right.
Our greatest hope in reaching the end of this pandemic is building herd immunity through increased vaccination rates. We are racing against the clock to get this done, so that we can keep future variants of the virus from taking hold. If we succeed, there’s reason to hope we can get beyond the pandemic in many parts of the world in the third quarter of this year.
The collaborative work we’ve seen thus far is encouraging, but we need to keep learning from our efforts and accelerating progress. Right now, the faster we do so, the more lives we save.
Chief Executive Officer
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