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Understanding the building blocks of pandemic resilience

Revisiting pandemic resilience: We’ve learned so much over the past year. But to ensure the global vaccine campaign reaches everyone and prepare for the future, we must truly understand how to successfully manage a pandemic and prepare systematically for the next public health emergency.

Revisiting Pandemic Resilience

What we’ve learned and how we can be ready for the next one

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Pandemic resilience – one year on in the race against the virus

It has been well over a year since the world woke up to the news of the new SARS-COV-2 virus. What followed was the largest global health crisis in 100 years, with profound disruptions to our lives.  

Managing a pandemic is a combination of prevention, monitoring, and countermeasures. Logistics and supply chain management has played a vital role right from the start, ensuring the infrastructure and processes are in place to distribute the tools the world needs to fight COVID-19. From personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the pandemic to the global vaccination campaign at this crucial moment in the crisis, each step forward in this race has come with its own set of challenges.

Helping to heal the world

Watch the video to see some of Deutsche Post DHL Groupy’s contributions to Covid-19 vaccine distribution by mid-May of 2021.

Last year, we took a close look at the medical supply chain and the vulnerabilities the pandemic had exposed. In our white paper, Delivering Pandemic Resilience, we identified the critical logistics and supply chain challenges that had emerged early in the pandemic and suggested ways to tackle them and prepare for the next public health emergency. Back then, vaccines were still being developed, and the main pain point was PPE. Today, vaccine distribution is our most critical asset in the race against the virus.

The global response to COVID-19 has called the world’s pandemic preparedness into question. It has exposed how critical collaboration and partnerships are, and new forms of both are emerging. While many world leaders call for an international pandemic treaty, global economic and health leaders are urging wealthy nations to pledge $50 billion toward global vaccination efforts. The World Health Summit has declared “Pandemic Preparedness: Lessons from COVID-19” a central topic in 2021. According to the organizers, “now we must build with urgency on experiences made.”

Building on our findings in 2020 and more recent experience, we’ve revisited the topic of pandemic resilience and prepared an update. Since the global vaccination campaign began, we have distributed more than 300 million vaccine doses to over 140 countries. We have joined forces with governments and manufacturers to optimize processes and deliver as quickly and efficiently as possible. With the world closing the gap in the race toward normalcy, it was time to step back again and take stock of lessons learned. Our update, Revisiting Pandemic Resilience, reminds us what the global community has achieved so far in the race against the virus, how we can best manage the crisis and reach the finish line, and how we can prepare for the next pandemic.

Out of the starting blocks and closing the gap

The past year has been full of challenges. The novel coronavirus got off to a sizable head start, but we are gaining speed and closing the gap. In our pandemic resilience update, we start by looking at some of the major milestones the global community has achieved that have made it even possible to be in the position we are today.

First off, vaccines were developed in about nine months – five times faster than any other in history. This was driven in part by global cooperation and data sharing among scientists as well as seamless collaboration between researchers and regulators.

Total global vaccine production capacity has quadrupled, with more than 100 vaccine production facilities going online worldwide. Here again, unparalleled international collaboration and industry partnerships have fueled the rapid ramp-up.

Complex vaccine supply chains were set up in just six months in some cases, which is three times faster than a typical timeline. Despite the breakneck speed, these supply chains met unprecedented cold-chain requirements, prevented delays and damages, and achieved factory-to-arm times as fast as two days.

Other achievements are both promising and reassuring: the rapid response to surging demand for PPE and other supplies demonstrates resilience; innovative multilateral action to ensure global access to vaccines is a sign of international collaboration and solidarity; the two new vaccine platforms that emerged have the potential to tackle diseases beyond COVID-19; and large-scale research on therapeutics is underway. The global community has come together to get us through this crisis.


Vaccine production facilities worldwide

20 Billion

Vaccine doses to be produced in 2021

~1 Billion

doses administered (end of April 2021)


of vaccine doses spoiled or damaged in transit

Taking the lead by leveraging what we’ve learned

Now that we’re beginning to manage this race toward normalcy, we must harness what we’ve learned and drive toward the finish line. By the end of April 2021, the global vaccination campaign had administered around one billion doses. As many as 15 billion doses will likely be produced by the end of 2021, which means the chances are high that there will be enough to vaccinate the world still this year.

But this is where the next challenging phase of the race begins. If the vaccination campaign is to succeed, the logistics must also succeed. The effective vaccine rollout in several countries has shown us the building blocks that work. It’s time for the global community to come together to leverage them for a swift and seamless global rollout. We’ve identified ten building blocks across these four areas:

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The building blocks of pandemic resilience


All sectors, industries, and nations must work together to successfully end the acute phase of this pandemic, forming strong partnerships and leveraging data.


More than 95% of global COVID-19 vaccine doses are produced in eight countries. We need action for both transportation and packaging to ensure safe delivery worldwide. 


Last-mile vaccine rollout is the largest logistical hurdle, given the unprecedented scale and speed. Getting vaccines from airports to arms requires complex networks of transportation, vaccination points, and storage customized to local conditions.


Reducing vaccine hesitancy is the final cornerstone and will require education and targeted communication, simple processes, and clear incentives.

Download the Revisiting Pandemic Resilience white paper for more details about the ten building blocks for scaling the supply chain to all countries.

The final stretch to end the pandemic

The past year has been very dynamic. More transmissible mutations continue to emerge, which means it’s imperative to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible and ensure immunization is sustained in the years to come. Ultimately, we won’t reach the finish line and beat the pandemic unless the COVID-19 logistics and supply chain setup in 2021 remains strong. For example, we expect around seven to nine billion doses and auxiliary supplies will need to be distributed annually in 2022 and 2023. Success will depend on all actors remaining prepared, maintaining logistics infrastructure and capacity, and planning for seasonal fluctuations. Only then can the supply chain system currently being rolled out provide a platform for pandemic resilience for the years to come. 

Getting ready for the next public health emergency

In the same way that marathon runners train between races, we must maintain a level of conditioning that keeps us prepared for the next global health event. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of early identification, efficient containment, and effective remedies. History has shown that respiratory viruses are the most prone to spread, so the next public health emergency could be similar to the current one. This means that maintaining the infrastructure we are building to tackle COVID-19 will likely boost our resilience in the future. We have determined ten strategic actions across three key categories of public health emergency management that governments should pursue right now: prevention and early identification, containment and countermeasures, and medication rollout capacity.  Learn more about these ten strategic actions in Revisiting Pandemic Resilience. 

Revisiting Pandemic Resilience

The race against the virus: What we’ve learned one year into COVID-19 and how the world’s healthcare supply chains will be ready for the next public health emergency.

As this public health crisis has shown, institutionalizing preparedness in the public health space, especially around containment and countermeasures, can save lives. Therefore, we believe that the sum of these measures will help the public sector and health service providers ensure systematic preparedness and efficient response times for public health emergencies in the future. 

Published: Juni 2021

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