The cold vaccine chain is a complex subject. There can be many things that you might not yet know about a vaccine cold chain.
So, let us discover the various aspects of a typical cold chain so that you can understand it better.
What is the Vaccine Cold Chain?
A vaccine is a biological product. And it is sensitive to temperature. So when it undergoes a temperature change–either too hot or too cold–the active ingredients can degrade, rendering the vaccine ineffective.
Vaccine manufacturers need to transport their vaccines to health care centers across the world. They do the transportation through what is called a cold chain.
You can regard a cold vaccine chain as a global network of cold rooms, freezers, refrigerators, cold boxes, and carriers. The objective of a cold chain is to keep vaccines at the right temperature.
The temperature has to remain correct from the manufacturing facilities to the point of administration.
Transporters should ensure–at every stage of the journey.
Some vaccines should be prevented from freezing but should be kept in cold-temperature environments.
A cold chain poses severe challenges, especially when reaching remote or rural communities or places where the availability of electricity is unreliable.
Therefore, transporters should address these challenges by using the latest technology.
Challenges Associated With Cold Chain
Tons of challenges are associated with a cold chain. And that mandates the transporters to deal with them effectively. If they fail to do so, the vaccine consignment will get damaged, calling for a replacement.
The first challenge is the shortage of cold chains. You can get a fair idea about the shortage by referring to the current COVID19 vaccine supply scenario.
At least two COVID19 vaccines are required for each person on this planet. So, there has to be a doubling of every aspect of the cold chain–materials, capacity, logistics coordination, etc.
Importantly, vaccine suppliers should ensure that there will be sufficient capacity to hold all the new COVID19 vaccines while keeping space available for the vaccines already available in the supply chain.
When it comes to the usage of the ultra-cold chain, fewer vaccines are used in the chain, and the existing capacity and reach are also less.
You might find it strange to believe that there are not enough freezers in the world to reach the temperature of -75 degrees C.
But the shortage does not dictate that the impossibility of actuating ultra-cold chain distribution. For example, the Ebola vaccine requires ultra-cold chain storage. But, it has been used successfully in several African countries where there have been huge outbreaks of the disease.
Electricity also poses a big challenge with the cold chain. Refrigerators consume a lot of power, freezers require even more, and ultra-cold freezers need even more electricity.
The problems get multiplied if there is an unreliable power grid, and that calls for bringing in generators to maintain the power supply.
Like storage, electricity also poses a big challenge in cold chain infrastructure. And the challenges multiply with ultra-cold requirements and unprecedented situations, such as COVID19.
The list of cold chain challenges does not end here.
Time also poses a significant challenge with the vaccine cold chain supply chain. The journey of vaccines from the manufacturing plant to the administration points takes four to six months on average.
But, with the immediate need to administer the theCOVID19 vaccines, the distribution timeline can get compressed. So it could be down to a month or maybe less.
The early vaccine delivery also means that the governments will get lesser time to equip health centers and distribution channels with ultra-cold chain equipment.
An unprecedented level will be required to deal with the challenges. There has to be good coordination among the involved parties handling the coolers, carriers, and cold boxes.
What Role Cold Chains Play With COVID19 Vaccine Distribution?
COVID19 vaccine storage calls for an ultracold freezer as the vaccines are delicate and temperature-sensitive.
For example, Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine must be stored at around -20 degrees C., And Pfizer’s vaccine should be stored at about -75 degrees C.
Such requirements increase the challenges associated with the distribution that calls for extreme care in the vaccine distribution.
The goal of any vaccine manufacturer is to transport vaccines along a perfect cold chain so that their consignment reaches the eventual destination safely and effectively.