The ultra-low temperature requirements of the Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) vaccine pave a new path for vaccine delivery and storage.
While mRNA vaccines require a smaller manufacturing footprint than traditional vaccines, once they leave the manufacturing facility, there are a host of new hurdles prompting logistics companies to adapt.
Aircraft have been retrofitted, GPS tracking is authorized by the FAA, and states are purchasing large-volume freezers to meet first-generation vaccine needs. The first few batches probably won’t be on the shelves for long, experts say.
Food companies are no stranger to vaccine temperatures – seafood and ice cream are among the foods that need the coldest storage. But the volume and speed required to get the vaccines from the plant to a person’s arm is unprecedented.
So why aren’t more food transportation companies involved? Due to concerns about cybersecurity and the need for the federal government, which oversees logistics, to investigate them.
“We’ve already seen attempts to penetrate our logistics systems, our agencies and our partners,” said Brandon Daniels, president of global markets at Exiger.
Daniels is an advisor to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, both of which are involved in vaccine logistics.
Much of the delivery process has been devised, but the administration of the vaccine rests with the United States.
“We know how we can get out of … [the plants] to an airport. I think we know how to get from the airport to a cold store, and then I think we know how to implement it in the designated major hospitals in each of those states. That’s where we are now. That next phase of distribution is still in the works, ”said Daniels.
“There are courier services that are on. An example: fast courier services … Traditionally they are known for the fast distribution of parcels. So there are courier companies that deal with the distribution process, ”he added.
Daniels believes that in addition to improving cold chain logistics for the duration of the pandemic, new technologies are likely to catch on.
Cryogenic companies will be a critical part of the supply chain, he said. “Things like liquids that can be frozen and unlocked and more advanced technologies are needed for future distribution.”
For the next distribution level, there are plenty of options to work through.
“We have to manage risks. There is a lot of technology that looks like it was taken from the movie, ”said Daniels.
The ultra-cold storage units states have invested in are challenging to manufacture and ship, and there is also some degree of scarcity, he explained.
But for frozen liquid methods it is possible to have smaller cold rooms. And with unmet global demand increasing, it’s especially important to focus on rural and poor infrastructure areas, he said.
“More advanced technologies are needed for future distribution, especially with the efficacy figures published by Pfizer and Moderna,” said Daniels.
“The idea here must be that these technologies are giving small, regional, not so well-funded areas access to these vaccines,” he said.
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