With the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines underway, the world urgently needs to confront any barriers that can delay their impact across a planet desperate to end the pandemic’s toll. This initiative can help identify red tape at the borders in advance in the ASEAN region.
A year after struggling to import enough masks and other protective gear, countries can improve the success of their COVID-19 vaccination rollouts by reviewing their customs and border processes to anticipate obstacles to importing critical health supplies, including syringes, rapid test kits, therapeutics, and other medical goods and equipment.
As the number of suppliers and shipment volumes grows and complicates the supply chain, solid preparation is critical to ensure that the scaling of the worldwide pandemic response is not hampered by challenges that could have been foreseen. A robust but streamlined supply chain must be in place for health supplies that often require careful handling and can have a brief shelf life. This means developing procedures to ensure seamless border clearances that also protect the public.
What’s needed is expertise in knowing where bottlenecks exist and how best to permanently dismantle them. In ASEAN, the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation and the US-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) are drawing on the strengths of their business networks and partners, as well as the Alliance’s technical expertise, to help rapidly navigate key healthcare materials through import processes.
On the Ground
Because close collaboration between governments and the companies handling health-related logistics is critical, the Alliance and USABC have created a fully-funded project that brings together both sectors to detect problems and test new solutions.
This joint initiative by the Alliance and USABC recognises that governments will face mounting public pressure to accelerate the rollout of their vaccination programs and strengthen their COVID-19 response, with little tolerance for red tape ensnaring imports of vaccines or other critical goods. We aim to ensure they have removed all the hurdles before those vital shipments reach their shores.
THREE STEPS TO FASTER HEALTHCARE SHIPMENTS
1. In-country assessment of import processes by engaging with public and private sector stakeholders among the extensive networks of the Alliance and USABC. This gives a snapshot of the prevailing processes when importing critical health supplies.
2. Scenario-based planning to bolster the resilience of importation processes when subjected to unexpected events, such as a rapid increase in volumes, or the presence of counterfeit shipments. This would highlight barriers before they impact the actual arrival of health supplies.
3. Develop and document improved import processes for implementation, based on outcomes of the scenario-based planning.