A Three-Step Plan to Aid with COVID-19 Supply Shortage

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Karen Teber

WASHINGTON (March 26, 2020) — Two public health experts propose that the U.S. government undertake a three-step plan to aid in managing the supply of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Governors and hospital CEOs should not be left to try to find PPE supplies on their own,” write Jesse Goodman, MD, MPH, and Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH, in a new commentary posted on CIDRAP. (“What US leaders must do to protect health workers amid COVID-19 supply shortages,” March 26).

“The federal government also can do more, and while enhanced production is critically needed, improving the visibility, distribution and need-based access to what exists in — and enters — the supply chain can play a helpful temporizing role.”

First, the authors say the federal government must identify the full inventory of critical supplies that are now in and soon will be in both stockpiles and throughout the entire national supply chain by setting up a website for manufacturers, distributors, health care facilities and state and local health departments to confidentially report their inventories.

Second, the federal government should consolidate information about all of its own orders and stockpiles — across every department and agency.

“Since all federal agencies must have pandemic plans, and many call for stockpiling PPE, it is quite possible that significant inventories still exist that may not be urgently needed by their holders,” Goodman and Lurie write.

And finally, Goodman and Lurie explain that the federal government (FEMA, HHS, etc.) can help identify duplicate orders and where critical orders are not being filled.

“The federal response can also encourage voluntary and equitable redistribution as a way to efficiently apportion and allocate available supplies, including reserves, as needed, from the Strategic National Stockpile.”

“We are all in this together and must act in the most coordinated, efficient way possible. The confidence and lives of the public and health care workers are on the line,” they conclude.

Dr. Goodman is a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Georgetown University and is a former chief scientist of the US Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Lurie served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2009 to 2017 and is now strategic advisor to the CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives (CEPI) which is engaged in accelerating the development of vaccines for emerging infections, including COVID.