Earlier this year we covered what a last mile journey looks like for a vaccine, the equipment required, and where the shortfalls might be. You can read that article here.
Just a few months later, a COVID-19 vaccine is near completion and we now know more about what the last mile will look like.
What does the last mile look like for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Over 40 different COVID-19 vaccines are currently in clinical trials. One of the front-runners in vaccine development and is expected to launch first is produced by Pfizer and BioNTechs. Their COVID vaccine uses RNA technology, and in order to keep it stabilized, must be stored at -70 degrees celsius.
To protect the new vaccine, the companies also created a shipping box with thermal technology to hold the -70 degree celsius temperature for up to 10 days, with conditions, of course. The conditions have drawn skepticism that those receiving the packages will have the expertise to maintain the vaccine stability when they’re received.
As pharmaceutical companies work on the production of the vaccine, large carriers are preparing for the unusually strict conditions required to transport it.
UPS has built two “Freezer Farms” — one in Louisville, KY and one in the Netherlands — designed to hold 14.4 million vials of the COVID vaccine at up to -80 degrees celsius. Designing the freezer farms presented a unique challenge. An employee can not enter a walk-in freezer that is set at -80 degrees and function, even with the warmest of attire. With that in mind, UPS decided on up-right freezers, more similar to what you would have at home, except they can cost over $10,000. Read more about the freezer farms here.
DHL and Fedex have also begun to prepare facilities and materials to transport the vaccine with DHL opening a new facility in Indianapolis and Fedex increasing their freezers, trucks and other equipment.
In a report, DHL and McKinsey pointed to the last mile’s lack of cooling facilities as the biggest issue in a COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. By their estimates, only 25% of the world’s population can access the vaccine with our current infrastructure and ability to keep the vaccine stable. They did point out, however, that a less sensitive vaccine, one that could stabilize at 2-8 degrees celsius, would allow it to reach over 70% of the world’s population.
An uncertain future
With trials still going on, the release date of the vaccine is still up in the air. While there’s still time, last mile providers should continue to prepare the infrastructure and be on guard to bring the vaccine to the masses.
eTrac is a simpler, smarter, and faster way to reach the last mile. One integration to the eTrac platform allows shippers, 3PL’s and freight forwarders to gain complete visibility to their entire network last mile carriers. eTrac’s advanced capabilities allow their carriers to remain on their current operational system, no matter what operational system they use — no portals, or mandated system changes. When you need to grow your footprint, find new carriers with ease with the eTrac Carrier Partner database, a comprehensive list of last mile carriers ready to help you reach the last mile. Order information and alerts are sent directly to you in real-time, and data is stored for historical analysis and tracking carrier compliance.
See why eTrac is the best way to reach the last mile by scheduling a demo here.