Cold chain technologies: AI’s crucial role in equitable vaccine access

Cold chain technologies: AI’s crucial role in equitable vaccine access

Plans for the covid-19 vaccine rollout bring hope. But challenges await the large-scale vaccine production and distribution. How can cold chain technology help?

Covid-19 vaccine rollout plans at a glance

Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccine development and promising trial results are raising everyone’s hopes that the end of the pandemic is near and life could start going back to normal. 

  • Pfizer is expected to produce up to 50 million doses worldwide before the end of 2020 and up to 1.3 billion in 2021. Moderna intends to manufacture approximately 20 million doses in 2020 and 500 million to 1 billion in 2021.
  • Anyone receiving either vaccine will need two doses, administered three or four weeks apart. But to reach local hospitals and pharmacies and then be used on patients, the little glass vials of vaccine will have to go through several stages.
  • Global distribution already presents a huge logistical nightmare, especially to developing countries, and ensuring proper storage during transport to guarantee vaccine efficacy and safety adds even more pressure.

The covid-19 vaccine cold truth

Manufacturing the vaccine for global supply is an unprecedented challenge in itself. The facilities are limited and will need to be scaled up quickly to meet the large-scale global vaccination needs to achieve the required level of immunity to the virus.

In the US alone, 70 percent of the population must be immunized to achieve the threshold for herd immunity. In India, 900 million need to be vaccinated to reach a herd immunity level while in Africa the number is pegged at 750 million people, many of whom live in rural communities with limited access to healthcare. 

After manufacture, the COVID-19 vaccine has to go through a tangled network of freezing, storage, shipping, and distribution – without budging from narrow, specific temperature ranges – to ensure its quality.

The two leading vaccine candidates both use an RNA-based technology approach that requires sub-zero temperature for storage and transportation to prevent degradation. Even though RNA technology is already being used in the treatment of other diseases such as amyloidosis,no licensed vaccine has been authorized for human use, creating a challenge for the existing global cold chain industry to maintain such low-temperature requirements, especially at the scale that is now required.

Moderna’s vaccine is shipped and stored at -20 ° C (-4 ° F) to reach a shelf life of six months. Once thawed and kept in a refrigerator between 2 ° C and 8 ° C (36 ° F to 46 ° F), it is only good for up to 30 days.

Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at -70 °C (-94 ° F), which presents a much greater challenge. Once transferred to a refrigerator, it must be administered within five days.

As the number of COVID-19 cases and casualties continues to rise, governments and even private entities are increasingly hard-pressed to invest in supply chain infrastructures, cold chain technologies including strengthening cold storage facilities, to ensure supply and quality of vaccines for wide-scale immunization.

Cold chain WMS: The future of the smarter cold chain 

Step it up to a smarter cold chain – optimize your cold storage warehouse using an affordable, smart, and cutting-edge warehouse management solution from AEB.

Bolstering vaccine supply chain with cold chain technologies

Successfully distributing COVID-19 vaccines across the world requires leveraging already existing and systematized cold chain technologies capable of real-time and accurate information. A fool-proof network capable of embedding real-time data across the system while efficiently distributing goods is crucial in preserving vaccine quality in large amounts, avoiding instances of a vaccine recall or withdrawal.

Blockchain, for instance, offers an immutable, decentralized database that can monitor proper handling and storage of vaccine supplies. This system can address supply chain management challenges such as participant accountability, item tracking accuracy, potential counterfeits, and complications in stock management.

The blockchain’s greatest advantage is the immutability of storage conditions data. An updated database enables vaccine distributors to ensure the required storage and temperature conditions are met at all times.

Artificial intelligence and other advanced analytical cold chain technologies can also transform supply chains and manufacturing through real-time data processing and decision-making with end-to-end visibility and traceability, forecasting, and predictive capabilities. In addition, real-time, end-to-end tracking software integrated into the cold chain network will help ensure the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines when they reach hospitals and clinics worldwide.

Proven solutions for efficient cold chain handling

With more than 5,500 customers worldwide, AEB has a global view of the cold chain processes required for temperature-sensitive items such as vaccines. The company understands the importance of implementing the best cold chain practices, advanced cold chain technologies, complying with global standards in preserving pharmaceutical products’ quality, and meeting the demand for real-time, detailed visibility on key inventory control and supply chain management measures.

AEB’s cold chain WMS features receiving processes that allow simultaneous physical and system handling of temperature-sensitive vaccines in an accurate and continuous manner. It also consistently follows strict inventory storage rules, production batch tracking, and allows to increase storage capacity for a more efficient picking strategy.

Given the complexity and hyper-connectedness of today’s global pharma supply chain, a warehouse management software with advanced features and state-of-the-art interfaces such as AEB’s can help companies identify and sidestep obstacles and quickly adjust operations when faced with disruptions. This can make all the difference in situations that require a precisely coordinated series of complex events spanning the globe, where any break therein could derail an effort to control a devastating virus.

AEB and Honeywell: The seamless cold storage warehouse

AEB's Cold Chain WMS in combination with Honeywell's advanced ultra-rugged handheld mobile computers allows businesses to enhance important processes with the latest cold chain technologies.