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Supply Chain Disruption: July 2022

The Pandemic and Beyond.

Before the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in early 2020, most people had never heard the term PPE; however, just weeks after the U.S. declared COVID-19 as a public health emergency (PHE), most Americans knew about dire PPE shortages at hospitals, and many were soon directly impacted by the lack of test supplies and long wait times for results.

The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) is working to help the country deal with these shortages. The CARES Act gave them new statutory power to assist, alleviate and prevent device shortages by 2020 at or just before a PHE.

Throughout the epidemic, there have been shortages of various medical supplies, devices and instruments that are vital to public health and safety. Some medical device shortages are expected to persist long after the pandemic due to various supply chain disruptions including energy conservation, increasing natural disasters and dramatic shifts in the global workforce.

As a result, the FDA is working on new supply chain strategies to avoid these difficulties before they affect public health.

Will the shortages end after the pandemic is over?

We may all hope that the worst of the pandemic is over.

However, new supply chain issues will continue to emerge in the months and years ahead, posing a threat to human health and safety. A storm created significant IV bag shortages even before COVID-19. Now, the world is faced with a scarcity of plastic resins, which are used in a wide range of medical products, from testing to personal protective equipment. Weather phenomena, not COVID-19, are to blame for these scarcities, and as weather patterns get increasingly intense and unpredictable, so, too, will supply chain disruptions.

What can be done to avoid future shortages?

Dealing with medical device supply chain interruptions necessitates anticipating issues before they become serious. Whether or not a PHE is in place, intricate strategies and transparent communication are needed to keep manufacturers and healthcare providers informed about the status of their supply chains.

What have we learned about medical equipment shortages from the pandemic?

Medical supplies and devices are critical to our healthcare system and public health, as the pandemic has demonstrated.

Not only were there shortages of PPE, but also of vital devices including ventilators, test supplies, and even certain vaccination administration equipment. COVID-19 showed flaws in our country’s supply chain, and notably our reliance on devices and components supplied from China and other nations. When medical equipment become scarce, people all around the world are affected, and public health in the United States suffers consequently.

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