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Tuning value chains for better signals in the post-COVID era: vaccine supply chain concerns

Daniel J. Finkenstadt (Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, USA)
Robert B. Handfield (Poole College of Management, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 18 June 2021

Issue publication date: 14 September 2021




The authors identify the critical bottlenecks that exist in the vaccine supply chain that are preventing a robust coronavirus disease (COVID) response. The authors posit that improved supply chain signals can result in improved handling and distribution of vaccines in a post-COVID world and identify recommendations for redesign of the vaccine supply chain as well as future research questions for scholars.


The supply chain operating reference (SCOR) model is used as a framework to identify each of the major gaps that exist in the supply chain for the COVID vaccine. The critical bottlenecks and delays that exist within this supply chain are identified through this framework and validated through the ongoing research and interviews in the field.


Whilst the vaccine supply chain for influenza is perfectly sized for development and distribution of this cyclical virus, the emergence of a new virus created a pandemic, which has exposed a number of critical shortages. The authors find that the design of the COVID vaccine supply chain suffers from a flawed structure. To date, less than 3% of the United States and global population has been fully vaccinated. The authors advocate a “back to front design”, beginning with demand planning for actual vaccinations and working backwards toward supply planning and distribution planning. These lessons may be helpful for capacity planning and supply chain strategy for future vaccinations as variants of the COVID vaccine emerge.


The authors provide a unique approach for viewing the current shortages that exist in the vaccine supply chain and offer suggestions for new variants of this supply chain for the future.



2021 Government of the United States of America

The views of this paper represent those of the author(s) and do not represent the official position of the US Department of Defense or United States Air Force.


Finkenstadt, D.J. and Handfield, R.B. (2021), "Tuning value chains for better signals in the post-COVID era: vaccine supply chain concerns", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 41 No. 8, pp. 1302-1317.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Government of the United States of America

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