The long wait for the vaccine may be over, but the distribution process of allowing 7.8 billion to access it around the globe is still a challenge.
Patients require two dozes of the currently available coronavirus vaccines, each with a gap of around 21 to 28 days.
Delivering the vaccine is being called the most daunting logistical challenge of this generation. It’s a global health incident that requires a complex network of shipping and technology where every stage matters.
Here’s how it’s being done.
The Flight Network
Airlines have come forward to assist with the shipping matters along with big logistic companies like United Parcel Service (UPS), FedEx, and DHL.
It’s estimated that vaccinating the world would require up to 15000 flights. Although airlines have been carrying pharmaceuticals for a long time, this is a challenge because of the scale and the number of different players involved.
Providing just a single dosage to everyone would fill up around 8000 Boeing 777 planes. Moreover, flight operations around the globe have reduced due to low demand, which is making the process more costly. It’s also helping planes carry more dozes, as the cargo area designated for passengers on the plane is almost empty nowadays.
The Cold Chain
Vaccines are generally temperature-sensitive, and they need to be stored in highly precise temperature-controlled environments in order to stay effective.
“Cold Chain” is the supply chain term used for the shipping of goods that require low temperature or frozen storage like chemicals, meat, pharmaceuticals, etc. Cold chain is that it requires everything to be specialized from the point of origin, the trucks, and the planes to the final storage facility.
Each stage requires careful handling and maintaining the low temperature required, or the packaging needs to be done in a way that keeps the goods cold. This is easier said than done as the current Pfizer vaccine requires temperatures as low as -90˚F or -68˚C. This is a lot colder compared to the requirements of other vaccines.
There hasn’t been much testing done to check the enduring temperature of the vaccine as there isn’t much time, so what’s already been proven is needed to be followed. The logistics challenge is more problematic due to hospitals not having specialized storage facilities to keep the vaccines in large quantities.
Temporary Cold Storage Alternative
Managing the temperature for the vaccine packages isn’t easy as most storage facilities aren’t equipped enough to keep temperatures as low as the vaccine requires.
Pfizer came up with an idea of a vaccine storage box packed with dry ice, which could keep the package at the required temperature for almost 10 days. This made transportation easier but later faced a few tackle-able problems. The boxes were big and contained large doses.
The box could only be open for a limited time in order to maintain the required temperature for the vaccine dozes to last the 10-day claim. Pfizer later started making smaller boxes in order to reduce the chances of vaccine dozes going to waste. Alongside this, the use of dry ice is also something to take note of.
Dry ice can be dangerous because it converts into carbon dioxide when it melts. So the well-being of the ones handling the packages could be at stake here. Carbon dioxide level detectors are placed where the crewmembers are most likely to be to alert them it if gets too high.
Distribution of the vaccine is a serious challenge that is being faced by governments around the globe. So if you’re a healthy individual, be grateful and don’t think selfishly about getting the vaccine. The ones prone to getting infected are the ones who deserve it. So step back and let your turn come to you gradually.
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