The covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented experience for people all over the world. After almost a year of widespread infection, two FDA-approved vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer have been approved for use. Moderna’s vaccine is given to individuals in two doses, 28 days apart from each other. The vaccine has shown to be 94.1% effective in protecting recipients against covid-19, two weeks after their first dose. On the other hand, Pfizer’s vaccine is also separated into two doses set 28 days apart. Individuals must be 16 years of age or older to receive the doses. Pfizer also showed an efficiency of 95% at preventing the virus after both doses.
Developing a vaccine takes quite some time, and so does the distribution process. Managing the covid-19 supply chain has become a challenge for all healthcare providers across the nation. Although millions of vaccines have been produced, there are steps that manufacturers and distributors need to take to ensure shots get into arms. Let’s take a closer look at some of the covid vaccine supply chain challenges and how to improve distribution.
Cold chain transportation and storage
Since vaccines can have temperature-induced defects, the transportation process is very fragile. As healthcare providers and hospitals have begun to receive the vaccines in high quantities, it’s been clear that refrigeration capacity has been an issue. This makes it tricky for individuals to know if their covid-19 vaccines are effective because of heat damage that can occur.
Once an item begins to sell out in stores, it’s normal for other manufacturers to make products very similar but not the same. This also goes for the covid-19 vaccine. As shortages occur, counterfeiters will more likely participate in creating copycat vaccines.
Shortages (Supplies and Personnel)
Although millions of vaccines are produced, there is still a shortage of materials from natural rubber to vials. Natural rubber is crucial as it’s used to make the rubber stoppers used in vials. It’s also a key ingredient in manufacturing rubber gloves worn by healthcare professionals who give out the vaccines. A lack of supplies can slow down the covid-19 vaccine production if this continues to be an issue, vaccine shortages will continue.
Misinformation and Tracking
When vaccines started to roll out, statistics showed that nearly 60% of people claimed they didn’t want to take the vaccine. Those unwilling to take the vaccine reason that they don’t trust the government or a brand new vaccine that hasn’t been tested. Some people are also under the impression that they don’t need a second if they receive one dose. There is also misinformation about the government tracking anyone who gets the vaccine. Of course, all of this is only misinformation. Vaccines have to go through rigorous trials before they hit the healthcare market. As soon as the virus was discovered, researchers started to work on a vaccine. This vaccine has been tested and approved by the FDA.
For vaccines to be distributed and delivered successfully, there is a lot of planning that comes into play. There is so much to plan, from syringe and vial numbers to refrigeration equipment. All of this depends on location. Vaccine storage locations have to be equipped with the right tools to house the vaccine safely. Additionally, distributors need to take into account transportation; how will the vaccines get to their final destination? Without the appropriate planning, problems can occur. This includes damaging doses of the vaccine through improper storage or handling. The supply chain will need to be recalibrated to get the distribution back on track if something goes wrong.
Track and Trace
Having an end-to-end inventory system that is vital. It allows healthcare professionals and distributors to see when vaccines are available and where they are in the transportation process. Batches of vaccines should be labeled with data tags to help to track the supply chain management. There is a short shelf life for the covid-10 vaccines, which is why it’s essential to check the expiration dates frequently. Post-vaccination tracking is the best way to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of a vaccine. Healthcare providers should be reaching out to individuals who received the vaccine to record their treatment’s success and any side-effects they faced.
Digital Data and Analytics
Data and analytics is an amazing tool that local, state, and federal governments can take advantage of for vaccine distribution. Many have asked how the vaccine should be distributed and who should get it first. According to IBM “The challenge public agencies face is the next step – understanding the risks, behaviors and attitudes that may be barriers to vaccination for critical populations, then making important decisions about how to identify, prioritize and provide access to these at-risk groups.” This is where data and analytics comes into play. We are able to identify some of the most prone to or “at risk” groups to get Covid-19 through the CDC vulnerability index. This index works to some extent but advanced analytics gives us an in-depth look into the socio-demographic identifiers of each community or group that needs the vaccine. It allows providers to quickly identify when each group of individuals can get the shot. This data ultimately helps us with equitable distribution. Providers can also use data to get the word out about the vaccine. With analytics software we can easily determine information consumption and communication preferences of each demographic. It allows us to share vaccine information with each community in a way that they can understand. If health agencies have the right data they will tailor communication and interventions to fit the community they serve.
According to the World Health Organization, successful immunization programs are built on functional, end-to-end supply chain and logistics systems. The ultimate goal of supply chain management is to ensure a constant supply of vaccines from manufacturers that can be delivered at all times. Nobody should miss the opportunity to receive a vaccine because there is none available. Even though there are challenges, we can overcome them by recognizing them and creating solutions every step of the way.