Stockpiling for future pandemics?


An important point we should not forget in this pandemic. It was, in a way, predicted. That is, in a globalized world, we can expect the occasional global spread of new infectious diseases. We just can't predict where they'll start or when it will happen.

So preparation is necessary, and a lot of the struggle we're seeing now is a consequence of lack of preparation. The problem is that preparation is costly. So an important question is what types of preparation are cost-effective?

I don't pretend to know, so I'm just pondering and speculating. I think keeping a sufficient number of reserve ICU units is obviously too costly. But perhaps stockpiling the particular medical supplies (durable ones, such as respirators, masks, and so on) might be cost-effective.

Stockpiling isn't free, and it's not simply the one-time cost of buying the products. Inventory costs can eat a for-profit company alive if they're not careful, which is why so many firms moved to just-in-time supplying. But if we can anticipate that occasional viral pandemics are likely to be a permanent feature of the future, perhaps - depending on frequency and severity, which may be unknowable, but perhaps reasonably estimable - some stockpiling may cost less than it ultimately saves.

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