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COVID Vaccine Global Distribution Challenges Explored by Bio Supply Management Alliance (BSMA) Panel of European Experts

Dec 3rd, 2020

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A panel of leading experts, assembled virtually for the 2020 Bio Supply Management Alliance (BSMA) Europe symposium on November 12, seized on the analogy of a Formula One race pitstop in assessing the expertise, cooperation, and timing that will be needed for successfully delivering COVID-19 vaccinations.

The analogy was brought into play during a presentation at the meeting on the logistical challenges in distributing COVID vaccine across the world by DHL Life Science & Healthcare Supply Chain Commercial Director Ali Kocer.

He explained how the potential bottlenecks “increase exponentially” further downstream in the delivery process.

The coordination at the end stage of the distribution chain where the recipient interface takes place, Kocer noted, becomes particularly demanding for vaccines needing low-temperature handling, such as the mRNA products. With minutes and even seconds becoming critical in the warehouse unpacking and vaccine handling process, the SOPs and systematics need to be very solid “like you are operating a Formula One race pitstop,” he maintained.

Addressing a Logistical Challenge of Unprecedented Dimensions

In his highly informed presentation on the COVID vaccine distribution challenges, Kocer addressed: ● the dimensions of the logistical problems involved ● how the industry is preparing, and ● the critical need for collaboration between manufacturers, the logistics sector and governments to find and implement viable solutions.

He stressed up front that the return to a normal life around the world has as much to do with how fast the vaccine will be manufactured and distributed to the world as it does with the timing of vaccine approval.

In turn, he underscored the view of other experts that the “fast distribution of a vaccine” may be “an even greater challenge” than its development. “It could be seen as the most daunting and consequential single logistical challenge ever,” he said, and the stakes “have never been higher.”

Kocer went on to describe the dimensions of the “unprecedented” logistical challenge of vaccinating the global population – one that is only expanded by having vaccines that may need to be injected twice, potentially three to four weeks apart, and stored and distributed in low-temperature conditions.

He stressed the adaptations that will be needed to the traditional supply chain shipping, docking, and warehousing archetypes, and the depth of collaboration that will be needed between the pharmaceutical sector, logistics providers, and government, in the distribution effort. 

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