Shipping Coronavirus Vaccines at Freezing Temperatures: Know the Challenges

The good news has eventually arrived–that drug companies have successfully developed Coronavirus vaccines that are ready for administration.

But it is only the first step. The next question then comes–how to deliver hundreds of millions of doses that should be kept at freezing temperatures. Drugmakers will have to transport the vaccines across countries while keeping them in freezing temperatures.

Two drug majors have reported having developed Coronavirus vaccines successfully, but the moot concern is that they will have to be stored at freezing temperatures. Pfizer’s vaccine should be stored at around -80 degrees C (colder than Antarctica’s winters). So, healthcare facilities will require ultra low-temperature freezers for storing the vaccine. Likewise, Moderna’s vaccine needs to be stored at freezing temperatures, but at -20 degrees C. As such, a regular pharmaceutical freezer for storing the vaccines will suffice.

But the storage will not be that easy. While vaccines will be produced in one country, they will have to be shipped to another country. The vaccines will have to go from the logistics hub to the logistics hub before landing at healthcare facilities, from where they will be administered to people.

Why Do the Vaccines Need Freezing Temperatures?

Before understanding why the vaccines need freezing temperatures, it makes sense to know a bit about how they work.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines involve a new approach to freeing the body’s immune defense mechanisms. The new methodology involves using messenger RNA (mRNA) to use cells as factories to generate a particular Coronavirus protein.

The protein sets in motion an immune response as in a real coronavirus infection. But, keep in mind that since it will contain only one virus protein, it cannot infect people or make them sick with COVID19. And the result will be that if anyone, who got a vaccination, gets exposed to Coronavirus later, his body will easily fight it off.

The vaccine technology is new, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not previously approve any mRNA vaccines.

The Complexities

In the US, healthcare authorities have kick-started mass vaccination campaigns. Parallelly, the military and federal contractors will also play a significant role in the distribution process. Simultaneously, there has been considerable concern about transporting hundreds of millions of vaccines in a freezing temperature environment.

Freezers will have to be fitted in planes, trucks, and warehouses. And the complexity associated with transportation mainly lies in maintaining the freezing temperature environment, which is likely to constrain delivery.

Reaching Different Geographies

Geography is the main factor in determining the efficiency and speed in the distribution of the vaccines. And the temperature in different geographies is likely to pose grave challenges.

The transportation of the vaccines to geographies with a warm climate, such as large parts of Africa, South America, and Asia, will face tough challenges. And in regions with limited cold-chain logistics infrastructure, the challenge will get more challenging.

However, technology is expected to play a significant role in enabling drug companies to handle the challenges and ensuring smooth transportation across geographies. Besides, technology is also the support to ensure that the vaccines remain efficacious throughout the supply chain.

Logistics Companies Gearing Up

During the pandemic, the world has learned many valuable lessons related to healthcare management.

One of the lessons is that proper planning and reliable partnerships can make a substantial difference in meeting the increasing demand for medical supplies and carrying out an adequate distribution. The lesson comes in handy when dealing with challenges in Coronavirus vaccine distribution.

It will help if a network involving both public and private; and government-to-government partnerships work together while from now on. Such strategic frameworks will ease the distribution challenges and help streamline the distribution flow. People worldwide are waiting for vaccines to arrive. All of them want to end the pandemic as soon as possible.

Logistics companies are the natural partners for distributing the vaccines. Such companies, across the globe, are working on setting up the necessary infrastructure and building and training teams to handle the distribution process effectively. In this way, logistics companies can ensure quick distribution of the vaccines worldwide.

Logistics players worldwide are working with government, health authorities, and NGOs to formulate effective strategies to access the global shipping network, local warehousing capacity and handle the likely logistics challenges.

Conclusion

COVID19 has not only been the only pandemic in the world. Many such pandemics happened in the past. Governments can mitigate the challenges by working together with logistics companies in strong partnerships with the right strategies.

Governments should build solid public and private partnerships and safe and sophisticated supply chains to handle vaccine distribution effectively. It will help effectively tackle the challenges involved in the distribution process and ensure enough preparation to address any unforeseen crisis.

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