The distribution of vaccines has always been a challenge. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately 50 percent of vaccines are wasted globally every year. For a large number of unopened vaccines, this is due to issues with temperature control logistics and shipment . COVID-19 and Pfizer/BioNTec’s new announced vaccine, that be distributed worldwide, leads to a new upturn and higher public interest in the distribution of vaccines.
The challenge of the ultra-cold supply chain
Besides the good news that the vaccine is ready for distribution and therefore might end the global COVID-19 pandemic, there is still the challenge of safe distribution that logistics service providers face. In general, vaccines need a steady temperature in storage and transportation. When stored at higher temperatures the vaccines quickly loose effectiveness, spoil and must be thrown away. Comparing the standard storage and transportation requirements for most vaccines (+2 to +8 degrees), it is obvious that the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer/BioNTec is a greater challenge for logistics service providers. This is especially true because the newly developed mRNA vaccine needs a steady temperature between -60 to -80 degree Celsius.
Temperature issues often occur due to inappropriate shipping procedures within the supply chain. Experts estimate the global losses at US$ 34.1 billion annually . Importantly, this number does not consider the costs of any infections that could have been avoided through on-time and high-quality distributions.
According to the latest reports, experts estimate that 9 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses will be produced in 2021 . This needs to be handled on top of the other vaccines that need to be distributed already every year. This huge effort in vaccination will require a highly complex cold chain. However, the current vaccine cold chain is often not up to the task and adapting the existing supply chain structures is not easy.
One of the main problems is the process by which vaccines and other pharmaceuticals are transported, when extreme low temperature must be maintained. The basic solution for these ultra-cold requirements is dry ice. However, the amount per shipment and aircraft is very limited as dry ice is poisonous in large quantities and as such includes risk for everyone that is involved in the handing of the cargo.
Overcoming this challenge with intelligent containers
Thanks to digital transformation and new innovations in logistics, the solution could be within reach. SkyCell developed an intelligent container that can cool to -80 degrees Celsius and use full aircraft capacity with only a limited amount of dry ice . This ultra-low temperature can be guaranteed for 120h. The containers include a completely new cooling technology that can store five times more energy than traditional methods and can automatically be re-charged in a cooling chamber. Since all parts of the container are integrated and fixed, no mistakes are likely to happen during this process. Using blockchain encrypted software in combination with IoT sensors and gateways which measure the internal and ambient temperature and other environmental factors, a high security and compliance can be guaranteed throughout the entire transportation process.
Leveraging these innovative containers for global distribution can become a real game changer. For instance, up to 1.75 million doses can be shipped in a single aircraft. Compared to the conventional distribution this is more than 10 times the capacity. The good news is, the manufacturing process of these innovative containers has already begun. Following the statement by SkyCell about 100 will be ready in the beginning of 2021. With this capacity around 35 million patients could be vaccinated every single month.
Let’s be curious what the future of cold chains will bring. One thing is clear – pressure like in today’s times – has always been a great driver for innovation.
At CAMELOT, we always have the latest trends in pharma logistics in mind when developing individual solutions for our clients. Due to our expertise and our strong cooperation with external partners, we help you to develop a robust logistics and transportation chain – no matter which specific requirements your products might have. For more information reach out to our expert team!