PPE in Perspective

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Almost overnight, the demand for PPE rose to unprecedented levels on the human medical side and across many industries. What is the animal health industry doing to ensure veterinary practices have adequate supplies heading into the fall?

To get a better idea of the surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Inc., a group purchasing organization for hospitals and health systems, conducted a survey of its members. The data that came back was startling. Survey data showed that active cases of COVID-19 created surge demand of:

  • 17 times the typical burn rate for N95 respirators
  • 8.6 times for face shields
  • 6 times for swabs
  • 5 times for isolation gowns
  • 3.3 times for surgical masks.

However, demand for PPE wasn’t just coming from the health care space. Billy Harris, CEO of Sri Trang USA, Inc., told Repertoire magazine, a publication that serves the health care distribution channel, that his company received an unprecedented amount of interest in gloves from businesses and organizations across all industries. Think restaurants, grocery stores, retail chains, cruise lines, etc.


Indeed, there’s going to be big changes in the supply chain, Harris told Repertoire magazine. The market’s going to look very different, and the demand will probably jump from the 70 billion it was at pre-COVID to possibly 90 billion when it all starts to settle out, he said, “because we’re all going to be doing more cleaning, deep cleaning, things of that nature.”

Ensuring supplies

Health care organizations were determined to safeguard against shortages of critical supplies as the upcoming respiratory season neared. This summer, nearly 90% of health care providers were contributing to stockpiles of critical medical supplies and drugs intended to last as long as 90 days, according to another Premier survey. The products that providers cited as heavily back-ordered include:

  • N95 masks and bouffant caps (both cited by 53% of respondents)
  • Isolation gowns and shoe covers (both cited by 49% of respondents)
  • Testing swabs and test kits (cited by 40% of respondents)
  • Surgical gowns (cited by 35% of respondents)
  • Exam gloves (cited by 32% of respondents)
  • Surgical masks (cited by 30% of respondents)
  • Syringes (cited by 7% of respondents)

The GPO also announced an initiative with 15 of its members to acquire a minority stake in Prestige Ameritech, the nation’s largest domestic producer of face masks, as well as other personal protective equipment (PPE). The move represented a long-term strategy to invest in or partner with suppliers that source from multiple regions as well as domestic markets to help ensure that a greater proportion of health care products are insulated from shortages and available in times of need, according to the GPO.

“With past outbreaks such as SARS, H1N1, and Ebola, the nation talked about domestic manufacturing and expanding supply sources as the keys to preventing shortages, only to return to the same overleveraged overseas markets once the crisis was over,” said Premier President Michael J. Alkire. “This move is the latest step in our long-term commitment to changing the way we source critical products so that we never again experience shortages as a result of overreliance. Our economic prosperity can no longer be tied to the things we buy – it must also come from things we make.”

Photo credit: istockphoto.com/bluecinema