The Covid-19 vaccine distribution challenge facing cold chains

Source: Pexels
Source: Pexels

No doubt the most wanted thing in the world is the COVID-19 vaccine. Alas! till Sep 18, 2020, around 800,000, smiles have been faded away forever because of COVID-19. But the word “hope” is worthy, which makes us fight more vigorously for shedding the unfortunate shadow we all are facing.

We the survivors will not allow this pandemic to ruin our future, directly connected to our children’s health and education. Both departments are directly hard hit by the current pandemic. Despite world economic crises, the educational sector is on the edge of disaster, particularly in under-developed countries. So a race to launch the COVID-19 vaccination is on its peak and hopefully, the black swan will fly away forever just like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza, and measles.

Though preparing any immunization on a vast scale is a hard work job, its distribution challenge via the cold chain system cries for extra attention. Various logistics groups have pointed out that not only the evolution of the vaccine is a feat, but that rolling out the logistics chain for the parceling out of a Covid-19 treatment will be extremely challenging.

Covid-19 vaccine preparation and race to be first 

So far, it is not clear whether it will be a single, double dose, or will it need multiple doses. But smart and well-organized arrangements are required to maintain a refrigeration system, as these are stored at a certain temperature.

Its development usually takes years and unfolds step by step. As approved experimental injections samples are tested in animals, then leads to human clinical trials, so it takes years to develop any vaccine. Right after the emergence of the current pandemic, all world powers are trying their best for the purpose.

Scientists in the United States set a plucky goal in January to develop a coronavirus injection within 12 to 18 months, while some experts claim that the U.S. the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could approve an immunization within six months.

According to the Washington post, “Russia announced it would begin using its vaccine in people at high risk for the virus in August, before starting its Phase 3 trial. While China has allowed a vaccine for members of the military.”

How cold chain system be effective for Covid-19 vaccines

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, an American physician and immunologist, observed “cost, distribution system, cold chain requirements, and delivery of widespread coverage are all potential constriction points in the eventual distribution of vaccines to individuals and communities.”

A minor mistake during supply can cause an enormous loss. We know that usually drug preservation requires a temperature range between two and eight degrees. If a single storage port cannot manage temperature control, then it will smash the supply chain system and so lessen the potency of the injections to the point, it is rendered ineffective.

As per the World Health Organization “up to half of the vaccine production is wasted globally every year; because of poor temperature control and the logistics to assist an unbroken cold-chain”.

Widely accepted that 70% of the world population might need a COVID-19 vaccination within the right time frame, so at the scale of COVID-19, this spoilage rate could ruin potentially a billion injections.

For an effective supply through the cold chain system, every country’s authority must adopt some essential steps.

  • The firm connection of the country’s farmers and logistics providers with experts and investors who involve minimizing wasted food and medicine could be worthwhile.
  • Technical knowledge relating to the refrigerator chain system must be enhanced for relating workers, to make them more professional and responsible.
  • Ground realities make us realize that much improvements are needed to make the cold storage system effective worldwide, depicted by Niklas Hagiberg from the United Nations Environment Programme.

“We need resilient, reliable, and sustainable refrigerator units to prevent food and medicine loss. And we must deliver this transformation in a way that doesn’t resort to speed up usage of fossil fuels or dangerously polluting refrigerants. The whole system must be optimized to address food and medicine loss in a way that returns value to smallholder farmers and businesses operating across the supply chains, as they build back from the economic impact of COVID-19. Only then can we make historic leaps forward to deliver the COVID-19 dose globally and to feed 10 billion people without using fossil fuels.”

  • The launch of a new WHO Vaccine Wastage Rates Calculator is on the way,  which will equip global partners and immunization program managers to calculate tailored wastage rates according to their delivery context. Holding other related benefits this tool is at hand in Excel format, you can download as a user’s guide, explaining step by step how to use the calculator.
  • Managerial and operational critical functions highly required for vaccine management must be handled by motivated and skilled teams.
  • Managerial jobs include; providing technical help to provincial and district level managers, ordering equipment timely, completion of vaccine Arrival Reports, identifying and estimating needs for the purpose, clearing vouchers and related documentation vital for the requisition and distribution, record keeping, etc;
  • The operational functions of management include; Sorting of injection and immunization-related equipment as appropriate, Conducting first-level maintenance of reefer chain equipment, Monitoring storage temperatures, Informing management of any apparent problems, Updating stock records, etc.

The responsible and well organized cold chain companies like Gulf Cold Transport keep all essential measures in view and fulfill the international guidelines for the purpose. This approach must be ensured by all reefer chain suppliers.

Bottom Line

Successful vaccination distribution challenge depends upon its accurate forecasting and estimation, which is based on the target population, previous consumption, and size of immunization at the service delivery level. The preparation of the Covid-19 vaccine is in process, so whole and sincere pre-planning for its distribution on time in all over the world is the foremost job of all cold chain transporters. Logistics support is crucial to immunization services for confirming the availability of proper equipment and the supply of rich-quality vaccines and immunization materials to all stages of the program. Similarly, the correct implementation of relevant strategies must be ensured. The chief areas of logistics support must cover injection supervision, cold chain management, and immunization protection.

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About the author

Yasir Hussain

Yasir is a network engineer but he also gained a range of experience in other multiple fields including human resource, project management, and education. Yasir works for Gulf Cold Transport.

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