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Preparing for an Influenza Pandemic: How Vendors Can Help

Preparing for an Influenza Pandemic: How Vendors Can Help

As experts continue to warn that the U.S. is not sufficiently prepared to deal with the next pandemic, many state and local governments have already developed plans and policies that can be quickly rolled out during a pandemic event to protect populations from infection and to care for those affected.

But while managing major public health crises is clearly the realm of health officials and first responders, communities and vendors also have important roles to play in times of crisis. Providing goods and services to protect vulnerable populations, coordinating relief responses, and maintaining vital services are all essential parts of an effective response to a crisis situation.

Contributing Products and Services

Vendors can provide a variety of useful products and services to help people in the event of a pandemic, but the most useful contributions would take place before any health crisis occurred. For example, a software vendor could develop an application that tracks the spread of influenza in a particular area; an emergency preparedness vendor could develop kits with supplies to help people ride out a pandemic from the safety of their home.

In New York, health and legal officials have drafted guidelines on how limited medical technology resources will be allocated in the event of an influenza pandemic. In particular, ventilator machines that help people with limited breathing capacity will be allocated to individuals according to the guidelines. For vendors in the medical technology and supplies sector, this presents an opportunity to partner with the state of New York to ensure that the state has access to enough ventilators to meet high demand in a crisis situation. To operate ventilator machines, medical personnel also need special training, another area where vendors in the sector could contribute.

How States Rely on Vendors During Crises

In a draft of California’s comprehensive plan for action in the face of a pandemic, the role of private vendors in mitigating the fallout from such an event is placed front and center. For example, vendors are expected to assist with challenges including “inventory scarcity and disruption of essential supplies” during any pandemic, creating opportunities for foodservice, medical supply, and emergency preparation vendors to meet the needs of government agencies and the communities they serve.

Businesses are also expected to contribute to retrospective analyses of any pandemic, including containment measures taken and emergency management services mobilized. Vendors in specialized research roles can help with projects such as these.

Of course, the specter of a pandemic creates opportunities for vendors in the law enforcement, communications and security sectors as well. Major public health crises require coordinated large-scale efforts to serve and protect people in affected areas and special equipment for first responders. Public relations and advertising campaigns to inform the public of developments during any crisis are also vital for disseminating time-sensitive information, and critical to the success of any response to a pandemic.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to prepare for what scientists believe is an inevitable influenza pandemic. Unfortunately, the reality is that we do need to prepare – and it takes contributions from government, private vendors and communities today to mount the best defense we can against any future health crisis.

Nathan Munn |



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