As governments and businesses around the world face one of the most significant challenges in history – an unprecedented rapid mass development, distribution, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines – a new report issued by Deloitte points to universal adoption of global standards across the healthcare supply chain worldwide to enable fast, efficient, and safe distribution.
Global public health officials have reinforced those sentiments, with Tom Woods, Chairman of the Global Steering Committee for Quality Assurance of Health Products for the World Bank, calling for the adoption of common standards including barcode scanning, “the most important and under-discussed element in preventing vaccine distribution failures and ensuring traceability and patient safety in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.”
The Deloitte study, “Securing Trust in the Global COVID-19 Supply Chain,” argues that, in addition to industry collaboration and transparent communication, “embracing GS1 standards adds an element of trust at all levels of the supply chain – a trust that ultimately extends to the patients themselves”. GS1 global standards enable pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributing companies and healthcare providers to follow protocols and safety measures critical to ensuring public trust and confidence, both in the vaccine itself and the ability to roll out vaccinations safely.
Barcodes carrying GS1 standards uniquely and securely identify medical products, including vaccines, from laboratories and clinical trials to point of administration. GS1 standards bring transparency and help to improve supply chain coordination, decreasing the risk of vaccine diversion, date expiration and fake vaccines proliferation.
While the adoption of GS1 standards continues to expand in the healthcare field, they are not yet universally applied. The Deloitte study calls vaccine identification information (such as product identifier, lot number, and expiration date) “essential for healthcare providers to administer vaccines with confidence,” noting that, “the WHO recommends that all vaccines be identified with this data in a standardised barcode.” GAVI and UNICEF have also required the use of GS1 standards on the secondary packages of vaccines.
“An unprecedented level of research, collaboration and investment has brought hope in the form of Covid-19 vaccines. The world now faces, however, an enormous distribution and administration challenge where global identification standards have a critical role to play. Countries around the world are implementing massive vaccination campaigns under enormous time pressure, all while the virus continues to kill thousands of people every day. Global Standards can help enable the proper identification and tracking of vaccines in the global healthcare industry and reduce the chances for error. GS1 stands ready to help all stakeholders succeed in this critical operation,” Miguel Lopera, President and CEO at GS1 says.
“For vaccine developers, health care stakeholders, and society at large, the level of transparency and public trust will determine Covid-19 vaccine acceptance and confidence. The continued adoption of global standards from organisations like GS1 are helping to instill that confidence in the Covid-19 vaccines,” Greg Reh, Global Life Sciences & Health Care Industry Leader, Deloitte says.