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Corona Vaccine – The Logistical Challenges

Corona Vaccine – The Logistical Challenges

27. November 2020
Corona vaccine

Currently, there is great hope for the development of the Corona vaccine to combat the pandemic worldwide. The vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer is close to approval. Other companies such as CureVac and Moderna are also well advanced in the development. Biontech’s vaccine particularly, is likely to be confronted by major logistical challenges, in view of its worldwide distribution. It requires cooling of -70 degrees and thus must be transported under special precautions. For comparison, Moderna’s vaccine is expected to have a storage temperature of -20 degrees and a stability of 30 days at refrigerator temperature. CureVac’s vaccine, on the other hand, has been proved stable at 5 degrees for at least three months. However, its effectiveness is still questionable.

Transport and storage at 70 degrees

One of the biggest challenges will be maintaining the cold chain. In general, medicines requiring refrigeration, direct the temperatures to be between 2 and 8 degrees. Nevertheless, Biontech’s vaccine can only be stored at these temperatures for about 5 days. Therefore, special cool boxes with dry ice or frozen carbon dioxide will be required to maintain a temperature of -70 degrees. For storage, it is planned to set up special vaccination centres with ultra-low temperature freezers. This is owing to the fact, that neither doctors’ surgeries nor hospitals are equipped with the storage capacity for a vaccine with temperature requirements of -70 degrees. 

Maintaining the cold chain in global transport

The requirement of medications to be transported at such low temperatures has been seen before with the preparations against Ebola. However, Corona is reaching a different scale due to its worldwide impact. While the vaccines are mainly developed in countries with a solid infrastructure, distribution must be made possible worldwide. Especially countries with high outside temperatures or poorly developed cold chain logistics infrastructure, pose a new layer of complexity to the logistics process. In addition, there is little time to prepare the logistics processes. Each process must be signed, approved and dated by the responsible person, so that each step is traceable throughout the chain at all times. Furthermore, the responsible personnel require special trainings to handle the exceptional requirements.

High safety regulations

Another challenge is the issue of security. The corona vaccine is sensitive and valuable. Therefore, theft and interruption of the cold chain are major risks. Thus, special protection and surveillance measures will be necessary to ensure the security of transportation. In general, the transport of medicinal products is already subject to strict rules. In order to maintain the safety and quality of medicines, the “Good Distribution Practice” guidelines apply in Europe. One of the main objectives of the guidelines is the prevention of counterfeit medicines entering the supply chain. They also aim to ensure control of the distribution chain and prevent theft. Therefore, they regulate the requirements for documentation, quality management and transport.

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