COVID-19 IMPACT SURVEY MAY 2020
The world is still counting the human cost of COVID-19 as infections breach the 4 million mark. The average mortality rate from the disease stands at 3.8%. Mortality rates are higher among the poor, the elderly and people with co-morbid conditions such as hypertension, asthma, COPD, and cardiovascular diseases. To bring down the mortality rates and improve ICU recoveries, hospitals need ventilators, given that corona virus targets the respiratory system. Ventilators have therefore emerged into the most important life-saving weapon in the battle against COVID-19. Against this backdrop, demand for ventilators has skyrocketed, rising multifold times over the last three months Jan-2020 to Apr-2020. In the pre-pandemic period when production of just 80,000 new ventilators was sufficient to meet global demand, today the single state of New York in the United States alone requires over 30,000 ventilators. Across the world as community spread of the disease deepens, a large number of the aging population is coming under risk. Increased infections among this vulnerable age group are resulting in a parallel increase in hospitalizations and need for ventilator support. Also aggravating the shortage of ventilators is the inadequate COVID-19 testing rates in almost all countries. In the absence of timely testing, patients with COPD will need to be presumptively intubated with invasive ventilators while awaiting COVID-19 test results. This leads to avoidable consumption of vital critical care resources. This unprecedented scenario will give the adrenaline boost to the global market which will reach a revised US$17 billion by the year 2027.
As overwhelmed healthcare systems fall critically short of ventilators, the number of deaths due to delayed ventilator support is increasing. In China, only about 1/5th of patients who died received invasive mechanical ventilation prior to death. The worst affected was Italy. The country during the peak of infections had to ration critical care services and send hundreds of patients home with palliative care prescriptions due to severe shortages of equipment, supplies and healthcare staff. Countries until now have not maintained any national strategic reserve of ventilators. Even in the United States, the world's largest economy, the available stockpile remains very small as compared to the now surging demand. The scenario will very well change now as countries begin to strategically stockpile on medical supplies including ventilators to be better prepared for the current and other healthcare disasters in the future. The U.S. government is currently focusing on building a new fleet of ventilators through multiple strategies such as imports, stepping-up domestic production and invoking the Defense Production Act. The Trump administration in a desperate bid to mobilize the industry to manufacture and nationalize the supply chain for medical equipment and supplies, has ordered automobile OEMs to begin production of ventilators.
Automakers forced to pivot to produce ventilators, respirators, and face masks include Ford, General Motors (GM), Mercedes AMG, among others. These makers of mustangs and SUVs are now playing a critical role in corona virus response. From utilizing car parts to leveraging their expertise in rapid, mass manufacturing, logistics, and supply-chain operations, these OEMs are successfully reducing turnaround times to build a ventilator. Ford is currently planning to reduce production time for a single ventilator to 13 hours. Ford and GM plan to produce 9,000 and 28,000 ventilators per month respectively by mid-2020. With these efforts underway, the U.S has already made significant progress as evidenced by the fact that weekly production of ventilators in the country has risen by over 800% to 900% over the last 3 months. While globally millions of ventilators will be demanded over the next year or two, not all demand can be met given the challenges involved in scaling production by over 1000%, which is the need of the hour. Supply chain bottlenecks are significant given that ventilators are complex pieces of machinery needing over hundreds of parts and components. Lockdowns, trade restrictions and bans, bureaucracy, red tape and different quality standards around the world are key challenges confronting broken global supply chains. Nevertheless, existing ventilator manufacturers are ramping up their production capacity by over 30% to 50%. Along with ventilators, even personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilator related drugs are in short supply, requiring prompt action by governments to address the challenge.