This week it was announced that there has finally been a breakthrough in developing a vaccine effective against Covid-19. Pfizer and partner BioNTech have revealed an inoculation which in initial tests shows it could protect up to 90% of recipients against falling victim to Covid-19.
As with any new vaccine, and especially with one which will be in such high demand and that has been developed so quickly, there will be logistical challenges for the Pfizer vaccine’s production and distribution. Critically, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored and transported at temperatures below minus 70 degrees Celsius.
The Logistical Challenge
The logistical challenges of storing and distributing globally a new vaccine at such cold temperatures whilst also ensuring physical distancing for distributors and vaccine delivery points are immense. The vaccine could be made in Belgium, and then transported around the globe. If things go well, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to supply 50 million doses by the end of 2020 and approximately 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. Two doses are needed per recipient and the globe’s population is currently around 7.8 billion. It is likely that high-risk groups and healthcare workers will be first to receive the vaccine, but this adds complexities to distribution logistics.
With Covid-19 being so widespread and virulent, the Pfizer vaccine is greatly anticipated and could be at risk to illicit actors who try to steal the vaccine whilst it is being transported. And some countries have ordered early but in a global pandemic crisis – what really is a fair and ethical way to deliver such a vaccine?
Pfizer and BioNTech have made a revolutionary development, beating other experts to be the first to develop a potentially viable Covid-19 vaccine. Now, they need to protect their reputations by managing logistics effectively, coordinating with global governments, and meeting public expectations.
Dealing With The Logistical Challenge In The Cold Chain
There could be a solution to solving at least some of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine’s logistical challenges and that is GPS tracking and realtime condition monitoring.
Tiny GPS trackers and embedded sensors with industrial IoT connections allow the real time monitoring of temperatures in their immediate environment, they can also be configured to alert users to temperature change thresholds. The location of a GPS tracker, or multiple trackers, can be followed in real-time. For a Covid-19 vaccine, this means once a delivery of this precious cargo hits the road Pfizer or the vaccine purchaser can track its shipment AND its temperature, potentially preventing loss due to incorrect temperature control or even theft.
Not only can GPS tracking help alert and protect to environmental changes for a vaccine, it means that if a shipment is lost, sabotaged or spoiled a new one can be sent immediately. This limits the detrimental effect should a viable vaccine fail to arrive at its destination. Imagine in 18 months’ time an outbreak of Covid-19 occurs in a previously low-affected area. A vaccine can be sent, and its fast, safe, delivery accentuated by GPS tracking and condition monitoring telematics allowing the location to faster control the spread of the virus.
Integration and Implementation
GPS trackers and condition monitoring sensors can be placed in vaccine packaging or in vaccine containers. They are so small and cost-effective that they can be placed in individual containers that could be divided and sent to different regions on arrival in a destination country, county, or state.
With today’s GPS trackers 4G LTE cellular data networks provide over the horizon telemetry whilst BLE short range industrial IoT can provide telemetry data at the ground level and within built environments. The data from GPS trackers is visible in real-time on a user’s device as well as . Powerful feature rich dashboard that can track single or multiple GPS devices and provide alerts configured to a user’s requirements via instant email, text message, and notifications. GPS trackers can also be monitored by multiple users – which could include the vaccine manufacturer, logistics provider and national and local government purchaser and distributor. Visualisation of the data telemetry can be via proprietary software dashboards as well as available via API and web services.
So far, the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine has been tested on just over 40,000 recipients. The vaccine has, quite literally, a long way to go. Despite the logistical challenges of cold storing and globally distributing this vaccine, the process will be aided by today’s technology and very likely by GPS tracking and realtime condition monitoring devices.