Everything You Need to Know About the Global Shortage of PPE

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PPE is a term that many of us went most of our lives without hearing—that is, until recently, when the COVID-19 pandemic thrust PPE into the spotlight. You’ve probably heard a great deal about PPE in the context of an ongoing global shortage. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about it.


What is PPE? What does PPE stand for?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is clothing, equipment, and other garments designed to protect the wearer’s body from hazards such as injury, infection, and chemical exposure. PPE is used widely in the medical and scientific fields, as well as in many manufacturing industries.


Why is there a PPE shortage?

COVID-19 brought unprecedented challenges for healthcare workers. Unfortunately, few governments or hospitals were prepared to distribute the amount of PPE required during a global pandemic. Doctors and nurses all over the world suffered from severe PPE shortages as a result.


An international cross-sectional survey of clinicians conducted in April 2020 found that only 42.6 percent of respondents had access to adequate PPE. Availability of this crucial equipment varied greatly across different regions. In Africa, 79.2 percent of respondents reported inadequate PPE, compared to 54 percent in Asia and Europe; 66.7 percent in South America; and 51.1 percent in North America. Front-line healthcare workers were most protected in Australia, where 60 percent of respondents reported an adequate level of PPE, and the Middle East, where 57.7 percent reported the same.


Other interesting findings from this survey include:

  • 80 percent of surgeons across all regions stopped performing elective surgery during the crisis.
  • Six of the 511 respondents tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The PPE supply was less adequate in countries with fewer cases of COVID-19.
  • In North America, 47.7 percent of surgeons worked with N95/FFP2 masks, while 42.2 percent worked with PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) systems.


Why is the global PPE shortage alarming?

Six months into the coronavirus crisis, there is still a PPE shortage plaguing the U.S. and several other countries. COVID-19 cases are surging across the country, with many medical experts fearing a second wave in the fall, and with the new cases comes a rising demand for PPE. One organization that donates PPE saw an 11,000 percent jump in PPE requests in Texas.


This shortage threatens the health and safety of front-line healthcare workers. Nurses have been forced to reuse single-use masks and some have resorted to using trash bags for gowns. In addition to posing a direct threat to clinicians, the PPE shortage poses an indirect threat to the rest of us by increasing the risk of transmission between healthcare workers and the general public.


What can you do to help? 

If you want to do your part in ending the global PPE crisis, don’t hoard PPE for your own personal use. General-use masks are available online at affordable prices, and easy to fashion using materials that you probably have lying around your home. Surgical masks and N95 respirators may be donated to your local hospital and/or first responders. Additionally, you can lessen the need for PPE by taking reasonable measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.


For dental professionals, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association have updated their PPE guidance to include changing PPE, such as Richmond Dental and Medical’s reusable gowns, between patients. For more information on Richmond’s products aimed at infection control for dental and medical offices, reach out to your distributor or call us at 855-841-0743.