We all hope that a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon - but the global cold chain must be prepared to distribute these vaccines around the world.
This is an unprecedented task, with a large number of transfer points across vast geographic regions. Vaccines may have to travel from manufacturing facilities to storage and distribution centres, and then onwards to healthcare facilities for local administration or cold storage.
Determining the temperature requirements of potential COVID-19 vaccines
As it stands, there is not a consensus within the scientific community regarding the potential fragility, or stability, of a COVID-19 vaccine. There is, however, a global drive to develop a vaccine.
This is encouraging researchers to explore new technologies that have never previously been approved for vaccine use, included here is RNA encoding of Coronavirus proteins.
This means that critical information, such as the temperature tolerance range for potential vaccines, remains largely unknown. By looking at the available data, it appears that some potential vaccines may require a +2 to +8.C range, while others are likely to require temperatures as low as -80.C.
Maintaining the cold chain
With both the World Health Organization and the International Air Transport Association stating that the likely vaccine wastage through poor temperature control is around 25% per year, logistics failures in the COVID-19 cold chain could be costly.
Logistics partners must be capable of developing comprehensive contingency measures, ensuring cold chains can be preserved through rapid coolant replenishment, at any given location and time.
Or, alternatively, swiftly transporting vaccines to certified temperature-controlled storage facilities to manage any transit delays. Estimating quantities of vaccine, dimensions of materials, customs requirements and external temperatures at all points during the journey is an exhaustive process. It requires not only a comprehensive understanding of logistics, but also expertise in vaccine stability.
Managing the unknown with expert logistical support
While optimum solutions cannot be devised until many questions have been answered, guaranteeing any potential vaccine remains within its essential temperature range at every point along its journey will be essential.
Currently, supply chains are under significant stress in dealing with the effects of COVID-19. The demands to find a COVID-19 vaccine that is stable, meets quality assurance standards and can be distributed safely and globally will require a global collaboration of manufacturing, healthcare, logistics and regulatory experts.
Fortunately, the pharmaceutical market has been globalising rapidly, regularly carving new routes through difficult environments. A COVID-19 vaccine will accelerate the demands on specialist logistics providers, as well as improving delivery processes that will benefit patients worldwide.
One certainty is that consistency will be essential, and this is only achievable through close working relationships between researchers, manufacturers, frontline medical personnel and logistics providers.
Biocair’s supply chain experts have already began exploring the potential demands of a COVID-19 vaccination programme. As the global specialist in life sciences logistics, Biocair is at the forefront in creating and delivering industry-leading time and temperature-sensitive supply chain solutions.