Supporting Public Health

Cutting red tape on imports of vaccines and critical medical supplies

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that public health can hinge on the smooth and rapid movement of crucial medicines and medical supplies around the world. The Alliance is working with a growing number of countries to find and remove any trade barriers that might get in their way.

The Challenge

Public health authorities need to be able to import medicines, vaccines, medical supplies and equipment swiftly and safely, but in some developing and least-developed countries a reliance on outdated border processes can delay these vital shipments, sometimes for weeks.

Time-sensitive pharmaceuticals and vaccines sometimes end up stalled in storage facilities, driving up costs and creating unpredictability for both the private and public sectors. Some shipments, like vaccine kits, have to be broken down into their separate parts at border controls, given different trade rules apply to individual elements in each consignment.

Trade facilitation is critical for countries and businesses that are producing not only finished medical products but critical inputs, such as the ingredients for vaccines that are not only alleviating the COVID-19 crisis but are vital in protecting communities from other familiar diseases.

The Solution

The Alliance is working with governments, international organisations such as UNICEF, and health companies to identify these kinds of bottlenecks and introduce a range of solutions to ensure a more rapid but safe movement of health-related shipments across borders.

These solutions can include digitalising pre-shipment authorisations that have long relied on paper-based, in-person submissions for each shipment of healthcare-related products. For vaccine imports in some African countries, the application and approval process can take as long as two weeks, leading to inventory challenges and higher storage costs.

Alliance projects rely on automation to speed the process while ensuring there is still effective oversight to determine the origin and effectiveness of the medicines and supplies in any shipment. Digitalised systems also make for easier collaboration among the various government agencies responsible for healthcare related imports, including customs departments and health ministries.

As a result, suppliers benefit from more transparent, predictable, and efficient trade processes that no longer rely so heavily on in-person application and authorisations as well physical inspections of shipments when they arrive at their destinations.

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