A functional and resilient end-to-end supply chain is the first and foremost factor behind a successful vaccine distribution programme on a global scale.
In this regard, the role of the logistics company is multifarious and involves effective handling, storage, stock management, strict control of temperature in their cold chain and the proper upkeep of appropriate supply chain management information systems.
The focus needs to be on continuous accessibility of the vaccines from the producers to the service-delivery level ensuring that nobody misses out on the chance to vaccinate because of the unavailability of the ampoules. Today’s post will cover all the important updates and the formidable set of challenges to effective distribution.
As stated in the WHO website, “Despite the success of routine immunization programmes, national vaccine supply chains are now strained to effectively manage the surge of new vaccine introductions, adapt to the needs of new delivery strategies, or benefit from new technological advances in cold chain equipment to increase their efficiency and effectiveness. Pressure to increase performance is pushing the limits of what can be achieved. It is for this reason that the WHO has prioritized this area of work as a key building block of the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP).”
The challenges and complexities of vaccine distribution
The three global pharmaceutical giants Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford/Astra Zeneca has worked at a breakneck speed in the last couple of months and finally we have a vaccine for the menacing virus. However, the deployment and distribution of the vaccines globally poses an enormous set of challenges for the supply chain companies.
Companies are already working overtime because of the surge in e-commerce
The surge in online shopping trends has already stretched the capacities of the logistics companies to a maximum. Moreover, several companies are already re-stocking inventories since the vaccine development has coincided with the launch of the new iPhone and Galaxy phone models. This has put additional pressure on the capacity of the international supply chain.
Cold chain capacity
As we have already discussed in one of our previous blog posts, efficient vaccine distribution necessitates a highly sophisticated cold chain capacity. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are required to be kept frozen throughout the transit process and only the most developed countries have the funds required to implement an advanced cold chain. The vaccines will be required to reach the remotest corners of the planet where there might not be any roads/ airports and the means to keep them at very low temperatures.
The problem of cold chain will become even more pronounced when it comes to distribution in the warmer countries of South America, Africa and Asia. Apart from the hot weather many places are not equipped with the infrastructure to store the ampoules. Moreover, in the event of a power outage the vaccines will be rendered useless. The Astra Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will require normal refrigeration (as opposed to freezer temperatures) so we are hoping that the logistics companies will take charge of making them available in every nations that are part of the COVAX programme regardless of their economic condition.
Last mile delivery
Probably one of the most formidable obstacles in this regard is hauling the vaccines from the ports to the end destinations. Several trucking companies have already stopped taking up more orders since they can’t handle the sheer volume of freight. The local pharmacies are expected to play a strong role in the last mile delivery of the vaccines so as to make them available in the rural hospitals. Visibility, end to end coordination and collaboration, real-time communication and digitization are the pillars of an agile supply chain strategy. We can only hope that just like the greatest minds of the world came together for the rapid development of the vaccine, the international logistics infrastructure will take special care to ensure that each and every person on the planet are able to get the shots as soon as possible!