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A lifeline to normality

DSV helps save lives and livelihoods by distributing Covid19 vaccines - as we learn to live with the virus

DSV Healthcare and US embassy

L-R: Nicholas Hersh, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, Chief of Mission Todd Haskell, Nicholas Crisp Deputy Director-General: National Health Insurance and DSV Healthcare MD Anthony Diack

More than nine million South Africans have received at least one vaccination – and by the second week of August DSV had distributed over six million Pfizer vaccines to sites around the country.

A collaborative effort involving the entire supply chain underpins the increasingly successful vaccination programme, from the National Department of Health to logistics operators and the medical aids and hundreds of public and private facilities which make up the vaccination sites around the country.

The challenge now is to maintain or increase the pace ahead of the projected fourth Covid19 wave towards the end of the year. It is the success of the vaccines which will help the world live with the virus, says Professor Shabir Madi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor of Vaccinology at University of the Witwatersrand.
South Africa’s vaccination programme received another boost recently when the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, visited DSV’s healthcare facility where the 5.7 million vaccines donated by the US were being warehoused before being distributed to vaccination sites.

Vaccines, then, are the game changer and DSV’s collaboration with joint distributor Biovac and the National Department of Health places us at the heart of the extraordinary challenge of getting vaccines distributed to tens of millions of South Africans as quickly as possible.

It’s an historic duty not lost on the team. Tracey Glover said: “We understand the significance of what we are doing to help South Africans get their lives back. It’s been challenging as we had to build out a highly complex business model in a couple of weeks.”

In fact, the scope of DSV’s vaccines distribution award from the NDOH soon changed to include a partnership with the private sector, and the cash collection mechanisms that went with it. It meant creating new processes, but well worth the twin benefits of medical aids shouldering a portion of the cost and the combined public-private vaccination drive moving at a significantly quicker pace. 

DSV Healthcare’s 12-person pre-planning team had swung into action in January in anticipation of the tender coming out in February. We developed a solution design and compiled the bid submission when it was published, focusing on the ultra-cold chain requirements because we knew we had the capability and capacity to handle it. 

The contract was awarded on 19 April, the first units were received on 3 May and the first orders delivered to vaccination sites on 13 May. The graph below shows how the programme has accelerated since then.

The Standard Operating Procedures were developed by the project team and cover every risk and eventuality, and the actions to be taken in the event there is a breach.

Remarkably, and testament to the planning, there has been one resolvable hiccup in just over two months of delivering 6.2 million vaccines. Of course, it is not just DSV planning – the NDOH is leading the project and have been fully engaged and diligent in their planning and execution. There are also security committees to ensure deliveries don’t fall into the wrong hands and of course the vehicles used are unmarked.

Ralton Moses, Operations Director, said he and his colleagues are grateful to be a part of the COVID 19 vaccine rollout. “This project is unprecedented and affects every South African. There is enormous pressure to meet expectations, and we are honoured to contribute our skills and experience to assist.”

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