Last month on Dec. 8, the UK received the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. On Dec. 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for the first emergency use authorisation of the Covid-19 disease. Moderna, now the second vaccine, received authorisation by the FDA, and set for approval by the EU on Jan. 6.
Additionally, Pfizer said it would work exclusively with UPS, FedEx, and DHL to transport and distribute the vaccine. FedEx and UPS have also installed location tracking and priority flights as part of special treatment when transporting Covid-19 vaccines. Pfizer’s vaccine has to be kept in ultra-cold freezers and transported in specifically designed thermal shipping containers. In contrast, Moderna’s announced its vaccine does not require as cold of temperatures and can be stored in regular refrigeration units. As vaccine distribution ramps up, the transportation sector will need to figure out how to operate on a compressed timetable. Today, we discuss the enormous undertaking the transportation sector will need to take to move the vaccine around the world.
Covid-19 vaccine on the move
As countries continue to authorize Covid-19 vaccines, trucks across the world are continuing to fill with Covid-19 vaccines. This has made it one of the largest-scale mass mobilisations since repurposing U.S. factories to help fight World War II. The effort to vaccinate and create herd immunity hinges on everyone from chemists, truck drivers, pilots, pharmacists, and healthcare workers. Trucks that head to vaccine distribution hubs, such as Pfizer’s, have specifically designed, temperature-controlled thermal shippers. Inside the shippers is dry ice to keep Pfizer’s vaccine vials at -70° C conditions. Furthermore, truck fleets that are working extensively with pharmaceutical companies must adhere to very tight regulations. The truck fleets transporting the vaccine will undergo routine inspections to make sure they are in satisfactory condition to keep vaccine vials at the correct temperature.
Covid-19 vaccine challenges ahead
Even with the latest vaccine success, the global Covid-19 vaccine distribution is nonetheless one of the most significant logistical challenges the world has seen in decades. The transportation process is more complex as distribution moves from larger urban and suburban areas to smaller, remote locations. Remote locations have smaller populations, which means it’ll be harder to find experienced drivers that are used to handling sensitive pharmaceuticals. So, for more rural areas, the Moderna vaccine is considered a huge win. Since trucks need to store Pfizer’s vaccine at ultra-cold temperatures, it should help make Moderna’s vaccine easier to travel with for drivers.
Lastly, all the many parts must come together. One little shipment delay or logistical mix-up could botch the entire Covd-19 vaccine schedule. From the vials, distribution hubs, packing, trucks, airports, dry ice, materials, and health care workers – it has to come together. Even if one challenge arises with hospital schedule delays or refrigeration issues, valuable vaccine doses could go bad. As one of the largest logistical global operations, this is unprecedented in terms of scale, magnitude, and urgency. This, essentially, means that transporting the vaccines has to be seamless including everything from scheduling, care, and distribution.
How LTi can help
With more than 30 years of experience serving the transportation industry, LTi Technology Solutions provides a mission-critical system, ASPIRE in the LTiCloud, for companies to use. The ASPIRE platform helps transportation companies achieve end-to-end visibility into the supply chain and offers a suite of applications to improve operational awareness. Contact us today to learn more on how ASPIRE can streamline your business!