Global Vaccine Delivery Efforts and Challenges Ahead
With vaccines being developed and approved for use in the hope to protect billions around the world, countries are facing a formidable challenge – distributing hundreds of millions of doses requiring ultra-cold shipping.
The near-simultaneous delivery of millions of jabs not only requires significant production capabilities but also puts pressure on logistics businesses engaged in distribution.
Challenges That Lie Ahead
The world is already facing a shortage of shipping resources, especially when it comes to refrigeration transport. One problem is that refrigerated truck and air cargo carriers are in high demand that already exceeds supply. Another is that carriers are tasked with dispatching different types of vaccines, along with supplies such as alcohol wipes, face shields, needles, and syringes. Pfizer, for example, is shipping separately all supplies that are required to administer jabs.
One thing that is given less attention by experts and media is the fact that manufacturers will need to supply and keep large volumes of raw materials to prevent disruptions. While pharmaceutical companies have the knowhow and experience to sustain supplies of specialized ingredients, this has hardly happened to the extent mandated by the huge volume of vaccinations required to inoculate the world’s population.
Challenges in Emerging Markets
In addition to the need for specialized transportation, there are further challenges in emerging markets such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Mexico, Brazil, and India. Even supply challenges such as theft, diversion, and counterfeiting pose more serious problems here than in Europe and the U.S. Distribution logistics is also a major issue in terms of capacity and financing available to ship and store vaccines in ultra-cold facilities. Poor infrastructure in some countries can also be an obstacle to smooth and timely delivery, especially in view of the unique requirements of Covid-19 jabs. Experts warn that these hurdles may slow down the rate at which vaccines are administered in developing countries.
UNICEF already announced plans to ship up to 850 tonnes of jabs a month provided that such volumes are available. This is more than twice the quantity that the fund is shipping on a monthly basis. UNICEF will be involved in the shipping and delivery of vaccines in 92 middle- and low-income countries. Executive Director Henrietta Fore stresses on the fact that this is a historic undertaking of an unprecedented scale and proportions.
The fund already assessed the capacity of land and air forwarders to deliver vaccines and found out that commercial air carriers are prepared to ship to all 92 countries. While jabs will be mainly shipped onboard cargo and passenger planes, alternative modes may also be required for countries with poor infrastructure. Another challenge to storage and distribution is that states are still to develop their supply chain infrastructure as to receive and manage vaccine volumes and supplies. UNICEF also announced plans to supply a total of 70,000 cold-chain fridges, as nearly 50 percent will be powered by solar panels. National vaccine and deployment plans are also being developed to ensure wide coverage.