It goes without saying that 2020 has placed stress on numerous sectors. However, while some are starting to learn how to operate under new regulations, cold chain transporters subjected to shipping pharmaceutical products should pay attention to what is happening.
While not every transporter will be transporting the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, it is predicted by some that new transportation strategies will eventually be applied to all fleets in the pharmaceutical drugs and biologics logistics market.
What Is Happening Currently With Transporting The COVID-19 Vaccine?
Due to the makeup of some COVID-19 vaccines, it is now known that its safe transportation will not be like any other. Not only is this due to the stress of public demand and security, but as well due to one of the approved vaccines instability.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine requires transportation in temperatures like none other at -70 °C, which is colder than winter in Antarctica. Most freezers and refrigerated trailers can only maintain -20 °C, proving to be unusable. In this case, forgoing proper cold chain storage of the substance will cause the vaccine to be unusable. This is because potential exposure to improper (or too warm) temperatures will cause the vaccine to lose effectiveness and potency.
As a result, transporters who are moving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be required to upgrade and adjust their operations and infrastructure networks to meet more stringent demands set by evolving industry needs.
However it should be noted that other vaccines have been approved. The approved Moderna vaccine requires not as unique storage requirements of -20°C with the ability to be kept stable for 30 days at 2 – 8 degrees °C (which is possible in a standard home refrigerator). Similarly the AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored and transported at similar temperatures of 2 – 8 degrees °C.
Support That Some Pharma Transporters Require During The COVID-19 Rollout
As of December 1, 2020, the US Department of Transportation announced that it had laid the groundwork to assist the safe transportation, whether it’s by land or air, of the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes coordinating with the select few who will assist with the movement as well as establishing safety requirements to reduce potential hazards or problems.
It should be noted that this includes standards for dry ice and lithium batteries to be used to ensure temperature requirements are met.
What This Means For Other Fleets Transporting Medical Goods: A New Standard
While looking at the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to understand how the progress will shape a new future for all pharma cold chain transporters. With there being discussions of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine being a new approach to take when battling viruses, what is happening now is something to watch. Such mRNA vaccines with extreme storage temperature requirements are being discussed and predicted for future mass use as it can teach cells how to make an immune
response inside our bodies from making a protein. The protein then produces antibodies that protect the body from being further infected if the virus enters the body.
If these types of vaccines truly grow in popularity and still require strict sub-zero temperatures for storage, a new method of distribution will be required by more than a select few fleets.
Various businesses in the pharmaceutical drugs and biologics logistics market would need to undergo various changes to meet new standards and increase their capacities or abilities to handle as well as monitor ultra-cold shipping tasks.
Upgrading the existing cold chain system to ultra-low cold chains is only one focus. Leveraging new and reliable temperature monitoring solutions is another requirement that businesses and transporters must prepare themselves for.
What Could The New Standard Look Like?
While mass adoption of these types of vaccines are not here yet, it is possible that the sub-zero storage requirements could become a new normal. If this happens, pharmaceutical drugs and biologics logistics companies will be forced to improve their operations to ensure cold chain stability and appropriate storage. This will require many transporters to upgrade proper temperature monitoring solutions to IoT and connected solutions to ensure cold chain custody and temperature storage as well as air blowers to keep temperatures low.
In addition, customers may request transporters to demonstrate cold chain integrity is maintained throughout the transportation process. So it is expected that transporters will need to also be prepared with the right solutions to supply evidence to support proper transportation.
The best practice to prove cold chain integrity is providing a cold chain report for each shipment and package, which requires advanced tools and sensors to help collect, compile data and formulate reports.
Now is the time to watch and learn how to approach possible changes in the pharmaceutical drugs and biologics logistics market. If by chance Pfizer-BioNTech-like vaccines do become more widely used and still remain unstable during transport, it will be critical for pharma transporters to upgrade their fleet appropriately to IoT-connected solutions to ensure long-term success.
About the Author
Victoria Gole is a Marketing, Branding & Communications Specialist at Zenduit, an industry leader in building scalable mobile and web solutions that can be integrated across various platforms and industries. With a number of years in marketing and communications, she is committed to sharing the wealth of knowledge Zenduit has in developing intelligent fleet and field service solutions to bridge the gap between fleet management and technology to increase safety, profitability and productivity in various fleet dominated industries.