According to the World Health Organization, about half of all vaccines delivered to different parts of the world end up in waste due to improper transport or storage. At the moment, a light – a vaccine – has appeared at the end of the Covid-19 pandemic tunnel. This vaccine should be transported at a temperature of -70 degrees Celsius, so the question arises – how to make sure that the vaccines are transported properly? And can we do that at all?
Already on social networks, people are concerned about meeting the security requirements for the supply of vaccines, given that it must be stored at -70 degrees. What makes everything even more suspicious is the publicly available information about the company that transports vaccines in Latvia – as indicated on their website, this company offers a cold transport chain, mentioning -30 degrees as the lowest temperature to be provided in transport. The vaccine transport process is currently not transparent, publicly available information is a cause for concern, while wider communication and explanatory work is not being done – it is a great breeding ground for new conspiracy theories!
According to Michelle Seidel, a specialist in the UNICEF immunization supply chain, a vaccine that has been stored in inappropriate conditions, such as when transported at low temperatures, loses its effectiveness. At a time of high hopes for the vaccine, such a scenario is unacceptable. There are specific requirements for transporting the vaccine, which not all carriers can provide, but the vaccine must be delivered quickly, safely and in large quantities in order to carry out the widest possible vaccination worldwide. However, this will not be possible if the public is not able to verify the safety of the vaccine, including its proper transport.
Every time the vaccine is moved, it is exposed to risks. Bad weather can delay delivery flights – dry ice can only maintain the temperature for up to 10 days. Freezers in trucks can break. Vaccine shipping containers may not be effective due to excessive shelf life, such as congestion. Coolant elements may leak. Even reopening the freezer to move vaccines can damage them. There are many risks and any breach of temperature control reduces the effect of the vaccine, and each time the vaccine is moved, this possibility increases.
Building public confidence in the vaccine is the job of public authorities and organizations. By explaining more about the vaccine, its content, fair information about possible side effects, as well as transparent information about the quality of vaccine supplies, public confidence could be increased. But at the moment there is silence in this field. Silence, because no one has the opportunity to make sure that the vaccine has been transported following the requirements.
In Latvia, the transportation of vaccines has been transferred to the private sector, and it is no secret that the most important thing for these companies is profit, so the vaccines are delivered as soon as possible. Although the speed of delivery is very important, even the customer does not usually have the opportunity to check whether all safety requirements have been met during transportation – you have to trust the supplier’s reputation. However, there are ways to do this. For example, Kedeon manufactures sensor solutions directly for monitoring cold supply chains – each load is fitted with a device that transmits real-time environmental data – temperature, humidity, etc. – by sending it to a cryptographically secure platform. Environmental information (temperature, humidity, etc.) along with timestamps, sensor calibration certificates and other delivery information are cryptographically sealed and stored in a block network accessible to all. Although the information is publicly available and anyone interested can view the information on a particular supply, the recorded data cannot be corrected by the national authorities or the vaccine manufacturers and suppliers. This eliminates corrupt risks and leaves no room for public doubt. This provides a clear opportunity for both the customer and the carrier to verify the quality of delivery, as well as for the recipient of the vaccine, by reading the QR code it is possible to verify that the vaccine will be delivered safely, thus building trust.
Already today, several countries around the world have chosen vaccine suppliers based on real-time monitoring of vaccine shipments. However, incumbents use this data only for internal purposes: in situations where all rules are not met, the carrier may choose not to provide information on deficiencies in the supply chain to either the customer or the public. We therefore want to encourage everyone responsible for vaccines to think about the importance of information about the transport process and how important it can be to build public confidence in the vaccine so that it can be vaccinated as soon as possible and the public can return to normal life. Pandemic in several