It might not seem the most obvious fact, but logistics companies are just as critical as healthcare companies, in achieving a successful COVID-19 vaccine drive. As more COVID-19 vaccine doses arrive, countries move closer to vaccinating front-line workers and high-risk citizens and residents. To ensure successful distribution and delivery, the vaccine needs to be transported and stored under specific conditions.
It is extremely important to maintain temperature control in the transportation, handling and storage of any vaccine. The result of unmaintained temperature throughout the vaccine cold chain is highly dependent on the vaccine type. Vaccines are biological substances that may lose their potency, or become potentially dangerous, if they become too hot or too cold at any time, especially during transport and storage.
Logistics companies must prioritise focus on cold chain
Logistics is an ever-growing industry, and most of its companies specialising in the distribution of healthcare products are well-versed with establishing and managing cold chains. This being said, there’s a risk that comes with a sense of complacency here. Logistics processes, for the most part, are not monitored strictly enough to ensure that the healthcare products dependent on them remain adherent to global health and safety standards.
This is where the introduction of intelligent technology, like remote temperature monitors, plays a critical role.
Ultra-cold containers and logistics
Thermal shippers are maintained at -70°C using dry-ice. GPS enabled temperature trackers help monitor vaccine stability.
These insulated medical Thermo boxes operate through the use of reusable frozen gel packs. These boxes will maintain the required temperature for up to 24 hours. Vaccines inside the Thermo box have to be either used or returned to medical refrigerators within 24 hours.
Transporting COVID-19 vaccines
As vaccines travel from urban cities to rural and remote areas correct cold chain temperatures need to be maintained at all times. The AstraZeneca vaccines do not require specialised ultra-cold freezers or vast quantities of dry ice, making it easier to supply If the correct cold chain temperatures are maintained, all three vaccines will have a shelf life of about six months.
How is temperature monitoring related to vaccine transport?
Logistics, transport and storage businesses should be investing in automatic real-time control systems that measure and record every few minutes and transmit the data regularly. As recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the entire chain would benefit from inclusion of temperature monitoring devices such as data loggers, threshold indicators and vaccine vial monitors (VVMs) on all vaccine touch points. These technologies are capable of sending immediate alerts upon any form of temperature excursion and can provide a log of temperature readings.
Storage and transport conditions for COVID-19 vaccines
COVID-19 vaccine storage temperatures
- AstraZeneca: 2 to 8ºC
- Moderna: -20ºC to minus 5ºC
- Pfizer/BioNtech: -70 to -10ºC
How long do COVID-19 vaccines last outside ideal conditions?
- AstraZeneca: The vaccine can last for at least 6 months kept at 2ºC to 8°C . It can be administered in existing health-care settings — stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions. After first opening the vial, at room temperature the AstraZeneca vaccine should be used within 6 hours.
- Pfizer: The vaccine can last for at least up to 6 months kept at -70°C. The Pfizer vaccine comes with thermal shippers that stabilise ultra cold temperatures with dry ice. After 10 days, the shippers need to be refilled with 23kg of dry ice and then refilled again every 5 days. After 15 additional days, the Pfizer doses need to be removed from the thermal shippers and either stored short term in medical refrigerators or long term in ultra-low freezers. After dilution, the Pfizer vaccine should be used immediately (within 6 hours).
- Moderna: The vaccine can last up to 6 months kept at -20°C. For shipping and long-term storage, Moderna expects the vaccine will be stable in most home or medical freezer temperatures. Moderna vaccine can be refrigerated for a month within the six-month shelf life. Once the first dose has been taken, the other doses in the vial should be administered within 6 hours.
Effectiveness cannot be guaranteed for vaccines unless they have been stored at the correct temperature from production to the end-user.