By Jeff Broth, freelance writer.
With the Covid-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc worldwide, the vaccine rollout has long been seen as one of the few viable solutions that will allow us to effectively navigate our way out of the situation and perhaps restore some form of normalcy, eventually.
However, one of the most significant challenges we currently face is making these vaccines available to the people who need them most, especially on a global scale. This is because the successful deployment of any vaccine heavily relies on vastly complex “cold-chain” logistics that ensure the transported goods remain unspoiled and ready for injection.
You see, the overwhelming majority of vaccines must be kept refrigerated between 2-8⁰C, with a preferred average of 5⁰C with minimal fluctuations. This is relatively straightforward to achieve in a laboratory setting as the vaccines can be placed into specifically designed lab refrigerators.
However, when the vaccines must be transported from the lab elsewhere, things become a little more complicated. And all the more so when it comes to the Covid vaccines, many of which need to be kept in deep freeze conditions until hours before they’re transferred to individual syringes.
Temperature monitoring technologies and vaccine distribution
The World Health Organization has clear guidelines on what should be considered adequate temperature management for vaccine distribution. These procedures and protocols must be adhered to in order to ascertain the quality of the vaccinations upon arrival at their final destinations.
As previously stated, almost all vaccinations must remain refrigerated while in transit across continents, traveling from labs to storage facilities to shipping yards until they reach the hospitals and clinics they are intended for. In the case of the Covid-19 vaccine, this calls for specialty extra cold freezers and a generous supply of CO2 in solid form, better known as “dry ice.”
During this time, they will be subjected to various climate conditions while on air freight flights, on the backs of trucks and in shipping containers. This is why it’s imperative that pharmaceutical companies, public health officials and logistics subcontractors do what they can to measure, track, and maintain the temperature of the vaccines.
One way companies can do this is through the use of temperature monitoring tech for healthcare logistics and the proper implementation of cold-chain management. With that in mind, here are a few of the main ways biopharmaceutical companies utilize this tech when distributing vaccines.
Notifications about changes in temperature
Most temperature monitoring systems can be calibrated so they notify the relevant departments when there are significant temperature changes at any point when the vaccines are in transit.
For example, the Moderna vaccine must be kept between 2° to 8°C (36° to 46°F) for up to 30 days before first use. In light of this, the companies in charge of distributing these vaccines can set up notifications that alert them when their cargo shipments fall outside of these ranges.
Instead of monitoring the status of the vaccines and logging data as a simple repository of information, advanced temperature monitoring tech can deliver automatic alerts to the company in charge of the distribution when conditions start to approach designated thresholds. This frees up resources that would otherwise be spent continually checking up on the status of each shipment.
Each vaccine is different. As a result, temperature monitoring technologies can be customized depending upon which type of vaccine they are transporting. Logistics teams can easily customize indicators for minimum and maximum temperature thresholds and other climate conditions such as humidity and exposure to sunlight.
Respond to incidents faster
One of the primary benefits of this tech is that it empowers teams with up-to-the-minute knowledge of the status of their vaccine shipments. If something does go wrong and the vaccines become compromised, the relevant teams will be notified immediately, which gives them a higher chance of saving the shipment from wastage.
Temperature monitoring systems equip companies with reliable analytics that they can implement into their business to make more informed decisions. This is especially useful when determining whether or not a shipment should be deemed safe.
The relevant teams will have access to objective data that clearly states the temperatures the vaccine has been exposed to and for how long.
Furthermore, companies can use this data to find flaws or weaknesses in their supply chain. They will highlight problem areas that come up in transit and spot the instances where future shipments may be exposed to extreme temperatures. This gives organizations a chance to revise their strategies and improve their cold chain logistics with data-driven insights.
Remote access to real-time data
Lastly, companies will be able to track, monitor, and maintain the temperature of their vaccines remotely. This means they no longer have to contact the transportation team to inquire about temperature levels every time they want a status update.
Depending on the type of temperature monitoring system they utilize, multiple teams will be able to access real-time data on each shipment remotely via smartphones, tablets, and desktops (any other compatible devices).
In most cases, all of this information is stored on the cloud where it can be processed and analyzed at a later date.
It’s safe to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us all of how much we rely on medicine, and how much vaccinations are an essential part of keeping us all fit and well as a global population. Nowadays, it is entirely possible to transport temperature-sensitive goods from one end of the world to the other thanks to cold chain management and healthcare logistics; however, the relevant departments must use the necessary technology to make this a possibility.
Temperature monitoring systems are essential for keeping refrigerated vaccines at consistent temperatures from manufacturing through distribution to health care facilities. Not only do they allow organizations to keep a close eye on the status of vaccines while in transit, but they also provide reliable analytics and automated notifications, allowing teams to respond more swiftly to serious events such as unexpected temperature spikes.