Every day we are confronted with reports about the development of the corona vaccine. Who will develop the most influential vaccine, when is it available and for whom? Where will production take place, and what about worldwide distribution? But vaccine development is not the only challenge. Logistical issues arise; after all, the supply chains for vaccines are very complex. Many aspects must be taken into account, and the question is whether the (logistics) world is ready for this.
Cross-border collaboration is complex but crucial to spread the corona vaccine worldwide. However, there are many obstacles to this. Due to corona, many countries are mainly focusing on their own (economic) recovery. Besides, air cargo capacity is limited, and transport costs have increased. Who bears these costs? How will the vaccines reach the less prosperous countries? Similarly, the distribution of vaccines requires specific, complex knowledge, skills and experience from all links in the distribution chain. Cooperation between the links is more necessary than ever.
It is expected that 800,000 tons of vaccines will be distributed worldwide from production sites. It is not yet known where these production locations are located, but they are expected to be found in China, India, Europe or the United States.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is to organize the logistics chain worldwide in such a way that the vaccine can be administered to the patient while maintaining quality. The distribution chain of a vaccine roughly looks like this:
Problems are mainly expected during the transport of the vaccine. Typically, vaccines are shipped by air. This takes into account a stable ambient temperature. The vaccines are transported refrigerated. However, it is expected that the corona vaccine may need to be stored at freezing temperatures of -20 to -80 degrees Celsius and thawed only 6 hours before administration. This requires a protocol to which the current logistics flows are insufficiently geared to. A chain-wide but also global joint adjustment is therefore crucial. All in all, it will be a complex question of how these temperatures can be safeguarded.
Guaranteeing freezing temperatures
Refrigerated air freight with pharmaceutical products is business as usual. Airfreight in deep-freeze temperatures, however, is of a different order, and relatively unknown in aviation. Especially when we talk about the expected volume. In addition, dry ice, which is necessary to keep the cargo at the desired temperature, is very heavy and thus adds more weight to transport.
The corona vaccine will have to be distributed worldwide. Here we are dealing with different climate zones. It will be a challenge to guarantee the temperature required for the vaccine to maintain quality at airports in the Middle East or Africa. The cargo only needs to stand on the red-hot asphalt at the airport for a short while, and the temperature could fall outside the margins, with all its consequences. In addition, the airport must have deep-freeze warehouses with sufficient capacity. In all of Africa, there are only four airports that comply with this. How do you ensure that the vaccine is distributed following the protocols?
Monitoring of temperatures is of great importance
We are all aware that chain-wide monitoring of temperatures is of great importance. In this way, it can be indicated whether the vaccines have remained within the set temperature ranges. Temperature recorders are added to the load and provide insight into the temperature development. The problem is that several links do not always carry this responsibility. To be able to monitor the temperature throughout the entire chain, from the production location to patient, a joint plan involving all links is necessary.
The significant risk for vaccine quality last mile
The last mile, the last part of the chain, is very complex and not always transparent. How the cooling facilities are arranged is often determined locally. In our country, there is sufficient cooling capacity in the form of refrigerated trucks available on the road, but what about deep-freeze temperatures? Cool boxes may offer a solution, but this also has limitations in, for example, the time between links such as the warehouse and the doctor. In short, a very complex issue that calls on chain-wide creativity, cooperation and development.
Protocols will have to be drawn up and recorded at an early stage, which is supported worldwide and chain-wide. This is to prevent an incomplete approach of the logistics chain leads to waste and loss of quality of the corona vaccine.
Would you like to know more about temperature monitoring of vaccines in the logistics chain?
Praxas advises on the correct protective equipment to maintain the quality of vaccines during storage and distribution. The safety of the patient is always paramount. Many of our customers are in the medical and pharmaceutical sector and already use our temperature recorders and cargo covers. We are happy to tell you how we can protect your products.