All indications are that we are very close to finally beginning the large-scale introduction of a vaccine for COVID-19. Several pharmaceutical companies have announced that their vaccines are in various stages of mass production and coverage of the first handful of small, local vaccinations is just now showing up in the media. While we’re not entirely in the clear when it comes to the pandemic that has gripped the planet for nine months, we have reason to be optimistic that the tide has turned.
Still, new challenges await. The focus will now shift away from science and medicine to the logistical task of distributing vaccines to a global population in a timely and safe manner that preserves their effectiveness. That last part is key since, as we have learned, the vaccines must be kept at a constant and very cold temperature during their journey from manufacturing plant to local medical professional.
And when we say cold, we mean cold. Moderna has announced that their vaccine must be stored at -4°F (-20°C), which is already a daunting task for components of the supply and distribution chain. But that’s nothing compared to the requirements of the vaccines supplied by Pfizer and BioNTech, which must be stored at -94°F (-70°C), a temperature that presents its own unique set of problems.
Then, of course, there is the scale of the distribution. Even with the highest levels of strategic coordination, the significant distances and massive number of doses involved mean that maintaining and documenting the transport conditions of the vaccines takes on even greater importance.
The job of delivering the vaccines, at whatever temperatures they require, is such a huge undertaking that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated and revised both its general operational guidance and best practices for cold storage in light of the current situation.
While we’re confident that the professionals involved are up to the challenge, the situation has placed a spotlight on the importance of temperature and condition monitoring in supply chains. Whether it’s alerts when specified metrics are out of range or end-to-end documentation of regulatory compliance, real-time monitoring is crucial to ensuring the proper transport of any number of goods.