“The demand for PPE including gloves, face protection masks or face shield, goggles, gloves, gown or coverall, head cover, and boots surged due to this global pandemic to ensure the safety of healthcare workers who are at the frontline combating the disease spread,” explains a news release about the report. “Therefore, the rise in the number of coronavirus cases across the globe and the growing need for healthcare workers to protect against the spread of the virus is anticipated to drive the growth of the personal protective equipment market.”
From 2019 to 2020 alone, the analysis found that the global healthcare PPE market grew from $5.99 billion to $7.83 billion — that’s a 30.72% increase. Furthermore, a high level of growth is expected to continue for the next four years, ostensibly because the virus is not expected to go away immediately (although vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer are nearing approval and distribution). Per the report, the PPE market is expected to reach $11.45 billion by 2023, at which point it will stabilize at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.5%. It’s important to emphasize that these figures do not include PPE sold to the general public, which would further boost the numbers.
So who has benefited the most from skyrocketing demand for PPE? The report lists a few of the market’s biggest players: 3M Co., MSA Safety Inc., Ansell Limited, Honeywell International Inc., EI DuPont de Nemours and Co., Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Lakeland Industries, Alpha Pro Tech, Sioen Industries NV, and Radians, Inc.
The government itself did not have enough PPE ready going into the pandemic, so instead called on these private manufacturers to produce supplies as quickly as possible. Early on in the US’s first wave of cases, President Trump asked 3M to ramp up production of its respirators — but the company responded that it was already operating at capacity. This led to one of the biggest problems in terms of healthcare equipment this pandemic: a breakdown of these companies’ supply chains that were similarly unprepared for a health crisis of this scale.
However, the manufacturers — as some of the US government’s only options — still benefited. Stiff competition for supplies resulted in bidding wars that drove up the price of the equipment, meaning more gains for the PPE market.
“It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states bidding on a ventilator,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on March 31, when the state was going through one of the country’s most deadly outbreaks.
However, as mentioned above, it has been far from sunshine and rainbows for the PPE market. For the majority of the pandemic, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare establishments have suffered without the quantity of PPE they need. Per a recent report, “thousands of nursing homes nationwide are dealing with horrific shortages of masks, gowns, and other items they need to protect residents, workers, and the broader community.” This report identified nearly a quarter of a million residents at risk in August due to dangerously low amounts of PPE.
The reason for this is that PPE manufacturers simply have not been able to keep up with the demand of this pandemic. The market analysis identifies this as a major inhibitor of growth. “Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak, the supply chain for PPE has not been adequate to meet the surge in demand,” explains the analysis, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 89 million medical masks, 76 million examination gloves, and 1.6 million medical goggles are required each month for COVID-19 response. “There is a shortage of supply, particularly for medical masks and respirators. Other PPE including gloves, gowns, and goggles have also not been sufficient to handle the increasing number of cases.”
In essence, PPE manufacturers have been held back by the pandemic’s impact on the workplace. Social distancing requirements and remote working have altered the entire supply chain. Furthermore, there have been disruptions to the supply of raw materials necessary to create PPE due to lockdowns and closures of the companies manufacturing and supplying them.
However, with cases on the rise, it looks like the market will have to continue to navigate this tricky terrain for the foreseeable future.
About the Author
Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.