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Developing supply chain immunity for future pandemic disruptions

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

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 2042-6747

Article publication date: 28 April 2022

Issue publication date: 21 November 2022




The study discusses a rationale for a new type of capability called supply chain immunity that is required to address slow-moving, persistent and dispersed pandemics similar to COVID-19 in the future. The authors’ work on the COVID-19 emergency response suggests flaws in the medical and healthcare supply chain systems, due to reliance on overseas manufacturing and insufficient strategic stockpile.


In seeking to understand the characteristics of supply chain immunity and how it is related to the need for a renewed strategic national stockpile, the authors adopted an inductive observational approach of engaged scholarship, based on their team’s extensive involvement in the national COVID-19 healthcare response during March–June 2020.


The study analysis, based on visibility, velocity and global independence, establishes a new type of supply chain immunity, along with the requirements for development of this capability. The framework for immunity proposed in this article provides general guidelines that an emergency responder would probably use in an informal fashion. The immunity framework is validated through references to current work on COVID-19 supply chain preparedness.


The understanding of readiness for pandemic operations using the metaphor of supply chain immunity is unique. It contains important observations on the development of capabilities – specifically, the outcome of an aligned medical and supply chain intelligence, a clinical standards organization and a materials management monitoring system. The authors’ insights are supported not only by literature but also due to direct engagement with academic scholars, Department of Defense (DoD) personnel, supply risk platforms and government officials involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response.



This paper forms part of a special section “The COVID19 impact on humanitarian operations: lessons for future disrupting events”, guest edited by Bhavin Shah, Guilherme Frederico, Vikas Kumar, Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes and Anil Kumar.


Handfield, R., Apte, A. and Finkenstadt, D.J. (2022), "Developing supply chain immunity for future pandemic disruptions", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 482-501.



Emerald Publishing Limited

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