An artificial intelligence led platform has revealed major supply chain challenges around the UK – unveiling regional hotspots of patients waiting the longest.
Patients in the North East, South West and Yorkshire will wait the longest for their flu vaccines – according to data crunched by AI supply management platform 7bridges.
Figures reveal that, with around 30 million flu jabs expected to be administered across England, there are areas where vaccine supply and demand are not matching up and leaving people at risk as a result of these delays.
Fears of “twindemic” healthcare crisis
Government campaigns have been underway, urging millions to get their vaccine, as fears grow of a possible ‘twindemic’ of both flu and Covid-19 cases, as seen in Australia over the last few months. This year, it has been extended to those aged 50 – 65, estimated to be nearly 11 million more adults than usual, in addition to those considered clinically vulnerable.
AI data mapping
Using AI simulation and data mapping to analyse the need versus the capability of doctors surgeries to deliver vaccines, the data shows that residents in coastal areas such as Devon, Northumberland and Cornwall may wait up to 33% longer than cities such as London and Manchester to receive their jabs.
Chart 1: Map of England showing the ratio of patients that will be recommended to have and will have a flu vaccine compared to the total number of patients at each doctor’s surgery
Matei Beremski, CTO and founder of 7bridges, says: ‘The pandemic has given us all a better understanding of the importance and necessity of vaccines in keeping the population healthy.
“With the broadening of the annual flu vaccine scheme to 50 to 65-year-olds – an estimated group of nearly 11 million – it was likely that surges in demand would make already complex pharmaceutical supply chains even more difficult to manage.
“But although all of the data used by 7bridges to map supply vs demand is publicly available, it is not currently being used to optimise the flu vaccine supply chain and minimise delays.
“A successful rollout in this case would be parity between the times different regions are waiting for their flu jabs but, by using our AI to map supply and demand, we found that this is simply not the case.
“Our data gives a snapshot of the reality that away from cities, where the average age of residents is usually lower, many coastal and Northern regions are going to feel the impact of bottlenecks in the supply chain.”
South West likely to have high number of “stretched clinics”
According to the 2021 census, the South West is one of the areas with the greatest proportion of over-65s. Recent data reflects this, indicating that the South West is likely to have the highest number of stretched clinics with the ability to administer flu vaccines much lower than expected demand.
Chart 2: The percentage of doctor’s surgeries by ratio of patients that will be recommended to have and will have a flu vaccine compared to the total number of patients at each doctor’s surgery split by region.
The simulations and data analysis conducted by 7bridges show that the North West has the greatest variance when it comes to vaccine requirements.
Here, the percentage of registered patients eligible for an NHS jab varies from 17% in some surgeries to 40% in others. Regions such as this could therefore benefit from sharing supplies between local clinics or encouraging those who are able to to travel to less subscribed surgeries for their jabs.
Chart 3: Table to show the minimum and maximum ratio of patients that will be recommended to have and will have a flu vaccine compared to the total number of patients at each doctor’s surgery within each region.
Matei Beremski said: ‘Thankfully, these supply chains are some of the simplest in the pharma industry as flu vaccines arrive already in syringes and only require being refrigerated rather than stored at exceedingly low temperatures.
“The flu vaccines are delivered in batches to surgeries across the UK, and by using AI and plotting robust and real-time maps of where demand is highest, the NHS – and other organisations with nationwide supply chains – can ensure they are transforming the way they are on top of complex programmes such as this.
“The last few years has highlighted just how fragile supply chains are, but technology provides the opportunity to drive better outcomes, improve efficiencies, and in this case, could reduce the risk for those who are vulnerable by ensuring they receive their vaccine in the right time frame.”
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