Veterinary Advantage reached out to several stakeholders in the veterinary community to gauge expectations of PPE supply and demand heading into the fall.
Matt Malenfant, president, North America Customer Operations, Covetrus
Veterinary Advantage: Can you give us a snapshot of how demand for PPE changed amid the pandemic?
Matt Malenfant: We have seen an increase of almost double in demand from our customers relative to prior years. For instance, gloves and masks saw an increase of more than 100% in March, April, and May with demand leveling off in June to roughly a 25% increase. We expect to see this level of demand continuing for at least another 12 months, if not longer.
Drapes and gowns were up slightly as many of the clinic procedures do not require isolation gowns. The highest increase in demand was in disinfectants which surged over 100% in the first three months and have continued to grow another 20%. Many of the products that we have seen an increase in demand for are our Covetrus Brand items.
Veterinary Advantage: How were you able to respond?
Malenfant: We immediately formed a task force to understand the demand patterns and requests of our customers and created a strategy to implement. We have outstanding relationships with our supplier partners and a worldwide supply chain. We prioritized the products that our customers require which included gloves, masks, and disinfectants.
Initially, we expedited orders and created an allocation program to ensure all customers had product and to guard against hoarding. We also secured additional sources from all over the world while maintaining our quality standards.
Veterinary Advantage: What are the expectations of demand moving forward?
Malenfant: We anticipate the demand to continue for the foreseeable future and candidly think the demand will not abate even after a vaccine is produced. It will level off, but we believe higher usage will continue. We are very connected with our customers and will continue to work with them as they redesign their practices and introduce new policies and protocols. We will continue to monitor the market supply to satisfy needs.
Veterinary Advantage: What is your organization doing to prepare for the rest of the year?
Malenfant: Our network is solid, and we can be counted on to supply the high-quality PPE items our clients need. To prepare for the remainder of the year and beyond, we are continuing with our allocation protocol which includes moving product back to normal availability and stocking levels when we see the opportunity. In addition, we are in constant contact with our supplier partners. We have placed orders with the increased demand in mind and have been building inventory throughout our distribution network.
Melody Alford, vice president of purchasing operations at Animal Health International Inc., a Patterson Company
Veterinary Advantage: Can you provide us with a snapshot of how demand changed for PPE amid the pandemic?
Melody Alford: We saw quite a significant increase in customers trying to secure inventory on gloves and masks, specifically at the beginning of the pandemic. It was about a 40% increase over last year on those categories of goods. This increased demand was from our traditional customers. We also saw more non-traditional customers trying to secure PPE inventory from us. For instance, universities were contacting us. Frontline workers, police forces, etc., came to our organization asking if we had PPE and if they could order it. So we had to be really smart about who we were servicing and what we were servicing them with from a PPE standpoint.
For the veterinary side of the business, we saw veterinarians shift and adapt to what they traditionally would ask for, and what they were willing to purchase through the pandemic. At first, they were asking for N95 masks, surgical masks, but they quickly shifted over to cloth masks and face shields, leaving the N95 masks for our medical field.
We also saw our suppliers that were servicing both markets – the human market and vet market – begin allocating their inventory over to the human market, which forced us to look for alternate channels to secure product.
But things have begun to stabilize. The manufacturers are now catching up with the demand. People have secured enough inventory. However, they continue to try to build safety stock on these categories of goods because everyone is concerned about a pending second wave that may come with the fall.
Veterinary Advantage: What are your expectations and preparations for the fall and beyond?
Alford: On the veterinary side of the business, we’ve moved into other channels and other product lines for PPE. We do not anticipate any challenges with masks – cloth or surgical. We currently are concerned with the supply chain’s ability to meet the demand for gloves. This concern is around our suppliers’ ability to secure the needed raw material. As a result of raw material shortages, we are seeing heavy price increases each month in the glove category.
Mark Shaw, president of animal health at AmerisourceBergen
Veterinary Advantage: As we head into fall, can you update us on the PPE situation?
Mark Shaw: Overall, the PPE product situation has improved significantly since the pandemic began. Manufacturers really pivoted their business to provide FDA-approved PPE products in a very short time period to assist the animal health market. That was a positive, just to ensure that we had a level playing field with the human health market. Since then, we’ve seen manufacturers continue to increase the capacity to adjust to the demand.
As we enter into fall, we feel like we’re in a good position relative to being able to meet demand, but we do expect the demand for these products will continue to be very high into the fall and continue to be a focus for us and our supplier partners.
Ryan Buck, EVP and chief operation officer, Compassion-First Pet Hospitals
Ryan Buck, EVP and chief operation officer, Compassion-First Pet Hospitals, said despite the challenges early on with personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, Compassion-First has been able to supply its hospitals.
“We’ve had to use different sources, but the challenges we experienced early on have lessened recently as supplies have improved,” he said. “We are hearing from distributors that they’re putting some items on allocation, like chemo gowns, ISO gowns, gloves, and even bouffant caps. We’ve heard a little bit about the materials for disposable PPE, paper materials that we need to keep an eye on as we get into the late third quarter, fourth quarter. That’s something that we’re just going to have to stay in close contact with our distributors. We see potentially an issue in the future, but as of right now, we’re in good shape.”
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/RapidEye
Photo caption: Demand for PPE increased to unprecedented levels this year.