There are many logistical difficulties when pharmaceutical and logistics companies are rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. However, according to specialists, despite meeting the shipping needs for the time being, it will not be enough as more companies are making more of the vaccine.
During the recent COVID-19 Vaccine Summit on Global Access and Distribution — Makers and Movers 2021, Christina Yi, chief operating officer of the US company Covaxx, said one of the three significant challenges for vaccine manufacturers is to get the vaccines out as quickly as possible. Also, finding the capacity to manufacture the vaccines is yet another challenge for vaccine companies.
Yi added that the company is working with global partners such as AP Møller-Maersk to help meet their delivery of 1 billion doses by the end of 2021.
Michael Culme-Seymour, World Economic Forum and World Health Organization adviser, said that as logistics companies increase their delivery of vaccines, there will be greater tension on the production capacity, which they need to solve.
Culme-Seymour notes that, until now, most Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out in countries with good infrastructure. However, the last-mile delivery would be a challenge for logistics providers in less developed countries that lack the necessary infrastructure.
On the other hand, another panel member, Andrea Gruber, ahead of special cargo at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), mentioned that logistics providers are ready to provide logistical support.
Using Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines as her example, which require a storage temperature of -70°C, the early issues when shipping them was the limited amount of dry ice that an aircraft could use onboard.
Leonora Lim, DHL Asia-Pacific Vice President of Life Sciences and Healthcare, points out that the launch of Covid-19 vaccines has only just begun and that logistics capability is still manageable at this level.
As for Southeast Asian countries, Culme-Seymour highlights three issues they need to concentrate on to be successful in the campaign to encourage more vaccinations, and one of them is local production.
Fake vaccines are the second challenge that he mentioned. Therefore, a robust blockchain sterilisation system needs to be developed by the logistics sector to protect vaccines from production plants to the point of vaccination.
Biomedical waste disposal, including personal protective equipment kits worn by healthcare professionals and needles and syringes, is also seen by Culme-Seymour, posing a challenge to Southeast Asian countries.