How to get Covid-19 vaccines from the factory to millions of Americans | Coronavirus

What are the main challenges in circulating the newly developed Covid-19 vaccines?

The two main US developers of the early vaccines are Covid-19 Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna. They both developed mRNA vaccines, a relatively new type of vaccine. A key supply chain issue is the temperature requirement for these vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at between minus 112F (minus 80C) and minus 94F (minus 70C), and the Moderna vaccine requires a temperature of around minus 4F (minus 20C), which is close to the temperature of commercial grade freezers. A third vaccine development company, AstraZeneca, says it needs a constant cooling temperature of 36F to 46F, or 2 to 8C.

The Moderna vaccine can stay at minus 4F for up to six months, and then for a month in the refrigerator, according to the company. Pfizer says the vaccine has a shorter shelf life five days after being transferred from ultracold storage to a refrigerator, leaving a short window to deliver the vaccines.

How are these vaccines transported and stored?

Moderna plans to use a similar approach to that used in previous events such as the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. In this case the vaccines will be sent from the manufacturing facilities in the east. -north USA 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 manufactures its vaccines in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He handles the transport to the administration sites by working with logistics partners. As ultracold storage is only available in large facilities and hospitals, they are stored there for short periods before being distributed to administrative sites.

Some states, such as New York, are considering setting up their own distribution centers.

How is the required temperature maintained?

Pharmacies and hospitals are trying to develop or obtain ultralow temperature freezers, but it is a huge cost to them. We are now seeing high demand for freezers and dry ice, and there is a risk of a shortage. The vaccines must therefore be given and given effectively to ensure that they reach the public without any waste or bottles in the supply chain. In 2019 alone, around $ 34bn worth of vaccines were spent due to changes in temperature during transport.

Dry ice is an inexpensive way to maintain low temperatures. Pfizer “thermal shippers” require about 50lb of dry ice to keep them at room temperature for a few days. It is considered a dangerous substance in airplanes, but the Federal Aviation Administration has allowed up to five times its normal use to be carried along with the vaccines.

Staff at administration sites must be trained to check the temperature and ensure that the Pfizer thermal box is not opened more than several times a day, for no more than a few minutes at a time, and to fill it with fresh dry ice at the right times. Some of this training is already underway.

What can be done about exploration and discovery?

Monitoring and monitoring them throughout the process ensures that the vaccines are stable and do not interfere. Making this data accessible to governments and the general public can increase confidence in the vaccines. This is especially important because these vaccines require two doses to work, and we need people to come back to get a second one, and to follow them up for feedback on any side effects. could be.

My team and I are working on the development of technologies to improve detection and analysis using smart packaging with the implementation of sensors and other communication technologies.

Monitoring and monitoring also includes the development of databases that integrate data within an end-to-end supply chain, from the manufacturers to the administration sites. Currently, 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 that we are still trying to overcome in order to have a unified and interactive system with better capacity to upgrade and deploy across the country.

Insurance companies and the government are considering how to cover the vaccines while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues guidance to ensure that most of the -population of the vaccine effectively.

  • Bahar Aliakbarian is an expert in supply chain management in pharmaceuticals and a professor at the School of Packaging at Michigan State University

  • This article is republished from The Conversation, a non-profit news organization dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts