Featured Product
This Week in Quality Digest Live
Health Care Features
Janet Woodcock
A flexible approach for ensuring access to safe, high-quality food and medical products
Edmund Andrews
Dealing with health insurance administrators costs billions in wasted work time and productivity
Graham Freeman
No matter how small an organization is, it’s contributing to a resilient, responsible, and sustainable global community
Gleb Tsipursky
The problem is a lot more complex than you think
Rita Men
A survey shows people tend to trust their employers more than governments or the media

More Features

Health Care News
Free education source for global medical device community
Extended validation of Thermo Scientific Salmonella Precis Method simplifies workflows and encompasses challenging food matrices
‘Completely new diagnostic platform’ could prove to be a valuable clinical tool for detecting exposure to multiple viruses
Provides improved thermal stability for stored materials, risk mitigation advantages, and processes that are documented and repeatable
Patient safety is a key focus in update of ISO 14155, the industry reference for good practice in clinical trials.
Despite being far from campus because of the pandemic, some students are engineering a creative way to stay connected
Good quality is adding an average of 11 percent to organizations’ revenue growth
Further enhances change management capabilities
Stereotactic robot helps identify target and deliver electrodes to target with submillimetric accuracy

More News

Bahar Aliakbarian

Health Care

How Covid-19 Vaccines Will Get From the Factory to Your Local Pharmacy

What are the main challenges in distribution?

Published: Monday, December 21, 2020 - 13:02

The two major U.S. developers of the early Covid-19 vaccines are Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. They both developed mRNA vaccines, a relatively new type of vaccine. A major supply-chain issue is the temperature requirement for these vaccines.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at between –112° F (–80° C) and –94° F (–70° C), and the Moderna vaccine needs temperatures around –4° F (–20° C), which is close to the temperature of commercial-grade freezers. A third company developing vaccines, AstraZeneca, says it needs regular refrigeration temperature of 36° F to 46° F, or 2° to 8° C.

Moderna’s vaccine can remain at –4° F for up to six months, and then for a month in a refrigerator, according to the company. Pfizer says its vaccine has a shorter shelf life of five days after being transferred from ultracold storage to a refrigerator, leaving a short window during which to administer the vaccines.


Temperature requirements for the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines. The Conversation U.S., CC BY-ND

How will these vaccines be transported and stored?

Moderna plans to use an approach similar to that used in previous outbreaks such as the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. In this case the vaccines will be shipped from the manufacturing facilities in the Northeast United States and Europe to a distribution center in Irving, Texas, which will be equipped with freezers to store the vaccine for longer periods. From there they are distributed to hospitals, pharmacies, and other vaccine administration sites.

Pfizer is manufacturing its vaccines in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It will handle the transportation to the administration sites by working with logistics partners. Because ultracold storage is available only at large facilities and hospitals, that’s where they’ll be stored for short periods before being distributed to administration sites.

Some states, like New York, are considering setting up their own distribution hubs.


Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech use different distribution strategies because of different requirements for their vaccines, and Moderna’s participation in Operation Warp Speed.The Conversation U.S., CC BY-ND

How will the required temperatures be maintained?

Pharmacies and hospitals are trying to develop or acquire ultralow-temperature freezers, but it is a huge cost for them. We’re now seeing extremely high demand for freezers and dry ice, and there is risk of shortage. So the vaccines must be supplied and administered efficiently to ensure they reach the public without any waste or bottlenecks in the supply chain. In 2019 alone, about $34 billion worth of vaccines were wasted because of fluctuations in temperature during transportation.


Dry ice is used to maintain ultralow temperatures required to store the vaccines. The Conversation U.S., CC BY-ND

Dry ice is an inexpensive way to maintain low temperatures. Pfizer’s suitcase-like “thermal shippers” need about 50 lbs of dry ice to keep them at temperature for a few days. Dry ice is considered a hazardous material in planes, but the Federal Aviation Administration has granted permission to use up to five times the normally permitted amount to be transported along with the vaccines.

The staff at administration sites must be trained to check the temperature and make sure that Pfizer’s thermal box is not being opened more than a few times a day, not more than a few minutes at a time, and to fill it with new dry ice at the right times. Some of this training is already underway.

What can be done about monitoring and traceability?

Tracking and monitoring the vaccines throughout the process ensures that they are stable and not tampered with. Making these data accessible to governments and the public can increase trust in the vaccines. This is especially important because these vaccines require two doses to work, and we need people to come back to get the second one, as well as to follow up with them for feedback about any possible adverse effects.

My team and I are working on developing technologies to improve tracking and monitoring, using smart packaging by implementing sensors and other communication technologies.

Monitoring and tracking also involves developing databases that integrate data within an end-to-end supply chain, from the manufacturers to the administration sites. Right now, Pfizer and Moderna will have the information until it reaches the administration sites, and the hospitals and pharmacies will have the data about the patients through electronic health records (EHR). So there are some challenges we are still trying to overcome to have an integrated and interoperable system with improved capability to be upgraded and used nationwide.

Insurance companies and the government are thinking about how to provide coverage for the vaccines, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues guidelines to ensure that most of the population receives the vaccine efficiently.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Discuss

About The Author

Bahar Aliakbarian’s picture

Bahar Aliakbarian

Bahar Aliakbarian is a research associate professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University.