Thanks to early action and teamwork between Defense Logistics Agency partners, three contracts totaling 3.4 million doses of the influenza vaccine were awarded Feb. 25, meaning DLA will start receiving shipments of the inoculations in August, well ahead of the 2022-2023 flu season.
The awards went to three vendors with a total maximum value of $70.4 million and will satisfy the needs of warfighters and eligible dependents around the globe.
This year’s award timeline is similar to the 2021-2022 season, including an earlier contract award date that prior years and a steady “battle rhythm” of communication and collaboration with distribution partners, said DLA Troop Support Pharmaceutical Manufacturer and Distributor Division Chief Alex Quinones.
Quinones attributed a large part of the success to an earlier timeline for the acquisition process, also used last year, to produce what he called “the most successful season” he’s seen.
“The key to all of it was teamwork,” Quinones said. “All the feedback that I got from the [DLA Troop Support Medical] team and the comments from the customers – DHA and the [military] services … they all called it a successful season.”
The contracts guarantee a total minimum value of $35.3 million across three vendors – Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and Seqirus – to ensure Defense Health Agency facilities around the world will have the vaccines in-hand prior to the onset of the flu season. It also gives DLA the flexibility to support emerging requirements such as the 2021 Afghan Medical support mission, Quinones said.
“When the Afghan [support] mission came up, we were able to ‘piggyback’ off [the 2021-2022 flu contracts] thanks to the early, multiple awards,” he said. “It allowed a much faster response than a new contract solicitation would have taken by several weeks and stayed within the contracts’ maximum values.”.
The other big key to success was good communication and collaboration with DLA Distribution and commercial carriers in making sure the vaccines got to their destinations safely and on time despite COVID-19 impacts on the nation’s distribution networks.
“The COVID-19 mission was going on simultaneously with the flu mission … and tied into the Christmas season. They call it the Santa Rush – [commercial carriers] just got bombarded,” DLA Distribution Seasonal Influenza Program Manager Domon Barr said.
Taking that into consideration, the DLA team was able to work together to manage orders from the military services within a constrained shipping timeline and keep the mission going, alleviating strain on partners.
“By giving [the commercial carrier] that extra day to be able to process other shipments … I think it increased the strength of our partnership,” Barr said.
Quinones expressed appreciation to all the partners involved and thinks DLA’s support will continue to improve.
“I think knowing how well it went this past year, it’ll be a little easier,” he said. “This is now our regular, routine battle rhythm … the proof is in the pudding.”