DHSC taps data firm to monitor threats to vaccine supply chain

Subsidiary of media heavyweight Thomson Reuters awarded £400k deal

Credit: Torsten Simon/Pixabay

The Department of Health and Social Care has signed a £400,000 deal for the provision of software and services intended to help government track potential threats to the supply chain of coronavirus vaccines.

The deal with TRSS International – part of media conglomerate Thomson Reuters – came into effect on Monday. 

Recently released commercial documents are short on detail, but the contract indicates that the DHSC was seeking a commercial partner to “assist with the understanding and monitoring of threats to the supply chain of Covid-19 vaccines in the UK”. 

The company’s service listing on the government’s Digital Marketplace catalogue states that – for £5,000 per licence, per year – TRSSI delivers a “media monitoring analytics platform… to detect emerging risk, trends, and threats”.

The tool aims to provide customers with insights gained from analysis of more than “12,000 global news sources” and also offers access to “global sanctions lists”, according to the listing. The technology uses “AI and machine-learning models” including “natural language processing [that] identifies and contextualises entities, relationships, and events”.

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Users can customise the algorithms and searches that underpin the service with their own “taxonomy [that is] specific to each mission” and, once a match to any of the specified terms is detected, an alert will be issued.

“[The service] processes millions of documents to draw insight from our vast volumes of content, making analysis faster, more accurate, and efficient,” the listing added.

In response to a request form PublicTechnology for comment and information, the DHSC indicated that it works with a “range of partners in healthcare and law enforcement to identify and mitigate security and resilience risks” faced by the vaccination programme. 

TRSSI will “provide software support to assist with the understanding and monitoring of threats”, it added.

The DHSC has previously taken steps to protect the supply chain for coronavirus vaccines and mitigate against some of the major potential risks faced.

In January 2021, a few weeks into the rollout of the UK’s vaccination programme, the department identified “2,000 people working in roles crucial to the continuity of the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain” who were prioritised to receive their jabs as soon as possible. Those eligible for the early-vaccination programme included scientists from manufacturers Pfizer and AstraZeneca, as well as workers at manufacturing and processing plants.

In July 2020 – months before any vaccine was approved for use – TRSSI a report examining the risks posed by the pandemic to the pharmaceutical supply chain in the US.

“The Covid-19 crisis underscores the importance of resiliency and diversity in global supply networks,” the report said. “The scope and scale of challenges for supplies of both active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished dosage means disruptive influences [are] likely to affect the pharmaceutical industry through at least 2021, with 95% of companies experiencing or preparing for disruptions due to Covid-19.”

The firm’s deal with the DHSC runs for an initial term of 12 months, plus an optional extension of a further year.

The £390,000 annual cost of the contract equates to 78 licences of the TRSSI software.


Sam Trendall

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