Challenges we face with the distribution of the vaccine

23.11.2020

The effects of the pandemic, in the form of a complete reorganization of all social sectors, are not only the everyday reality for people, but also for entire industries. These include, of course, commerce, medicine and pharmacy, but also transport, which has been tasked with ensuring continuity of supply. The long-awaited vaccines are in very advanced stages of testing, and some of them may soon appear on the market. Based on recent media reports, the challenge is not only to invent the vaccine but also to distribute it.

The vaccine is here, but what about its distribution?

Moderna has offered a vaccine that is designed to be stored between +2 and +8, but what about Pfizer’s vaccine that requires deep-freezing, temperatures below what is possible with the most effective freezer trailer? This one has to be stored in a constant -70 degrees celcius.

Exceeding the standards set by the industry.

Standard refrigerated transport cannot meet the manufacturer’s high requirements for durability and maintenance of the medicinal properties of the product. Therefore, special containers are required in the transport process. Currently, transport in such harsh conditions is carried out with the use of devices resembling a thermos, allowing to maintain -196 degrees, and ensuring stable thermal conditions even up to one week. It should be noted that transport of this type of containers is realized extremely rarely, taking into account the scale of demand.

There are also doubts about the durability of the package’s wrapping, which will be exposed to extremely low temperatures. Nevertheless, the production process will have to end with the product being cooled down, which means that its packaging should be resistant to temperature changes. Therefore, the protection of the goods may take place possibly in a case of additional protection from strictly mechanical damages that could occur during the transport process.

Dry Ice and a race against time

Ensuring such a low temperature over a long period of time is maintained, requires the use of appropriate packaging and transport and an appropriate amount of a cooling agent in relation to the volume of transported product. In theory, polystyrene crates should be sufficient, and the vaccines themselves should be layered alternately with dry ice. The amount of dry ice would be calculated in proportion to each kilogram of load, taking into account the cooling agent’s wear and tear during the day.

Nothing is impossible

The challenge is not only the scale of demand but also the geographical area. The distribution of the Pfizer vaccine will require the preparation of the supply chain for each mode of transport, not only by land but also by air, as well as the maintenance of specific, controlled storage conditions in the means of transport, in transhipment warehouses and at vaccination points.

The basis for the execution of the transport process is to separate it as an individual element requiring validation. This means that it must be physically carried out, monitored and then described, the steps must be indicated, risk assessment and the procedures to be followed if it occurs.

Knowing the requirements that vaccine distribution places on us, global companies are making preparations in response to demand:

  • adapting the infrastructure to the increased transport of medicines and vaccines;
  • increasing the production of transport packaging that ensures low temperature conditions;
  • increasing production of dry ice, the demand for which will certainly be greater.

 

Logistics and distribution can handle any challenge.