France Hired McKinsey to Help in the Pandemic. Then Came the Questions.

France has made more use of consultants in recent years and has created special budgets with which the agencies can call in external consultants if necessary. In 2018 McKinsey was selected as one of several consultants who can be hired by French agencies under a EUR 100 million pool contract. This meant that each of the agencies could choose one of the companies without having to get quotes for work.

The December contracts and another contract in mid-January totaling EUR 4 million originated from this combined agreement. It asked McKinsey to help determine the distribution channels for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which must be kept at temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius during transport and storage. The company would compare France’s performance with other European countries. McKinsey experts would also help coordinate a task force on vaccination of officials from numerous agencies, with some decision-making chains involving up to 50 agencies.

Additional contracts called for Accenture, the global information technology consultant, to implement the campaign’s monitoring systems and two French consultants, Citwell and JLL, to help with “logistical support and vaccine distribution”.

The government’s strategy focused on delivering the vaccines to 1,000 distribution points in France, from where the cans would be shipped in supercooled trucks to nursing homes, clinics and local mayor’s offices. Local distribution was seen as a way to overcome the caution of up to 40 percent of the population about vaccination.

In Germany, the program was simpler: the authorities decided to give the vaccine in 400 regional centers.

France had a million doses of vaccine in hand by the first week of January, but the delay in getting them into people’s arms became public knowledge. The campaign continued to lag as Pfizer and Moderna temporarily slowed additional supplies.

The pace has increased recently. More than three million of France’s 67 million people have now received at least one dose of vaccine, and over 923,000 have been fully vaccinated. According to a New York Times database, France still lags behind neighbors like Germany and Italy with 4.7 doses per 100 people.

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