Industry Trends

How to Overcome Vaccine Supply Chain Challenges

Over the last few months, the world has seen a sweeping vaccination campaign, with the global COVID-19 vaccine rollout taking place with varying levels of efficiency around the globe. However, even in the middle of this huge immunization drive, there are still many challenges involved. These issues have emerged as a result of many emerging factors, such as new strains of COVID-19, failed promotional campaigns by certain vaccine producers and governments, or simply operational inefficiency. 

In addition to the problems above, there is now a lack of cold storage capacity due to intensified vaccine distribution. The business models of many supply chains and manufacturers indicate that there is still a lot to learn and improve when it comes to vaccine distribution. Well-organized logistics and visibility play a critical role in vaccine supply chains, which means they are a key part of global health care. It is a complex landscape that involves not just manufacturing and distributing the jab itself, but also packaging, equipment, required supplies, raw materials, consumables, and more. Today, medical supply chains and their proper, smooth operation define the success rate for vaccination delivery.  

How Do Vaccine Supply Chains Work?

Vaccine transportation is complex, but the vaccine supply chain as an ecosystem has many additional challenges. The distribution of vaccines requires the highest quality of transportation equipment, temperature control, and high-quality operational planning. For example, if the cold bricks are located too close to the product, they can get spoiled. Violation of climate control instructions often leads to a high number of wasted products. That’s why increased attention to the vaccine supply chain is required. 

The Vaccine Supply Chain Consists of 4 Key Parts:

  • Manufacturing
  • Production
  • Allocation
  • Distribution

What Are the Challenges of the Vaccine Supply Chain?

Refrigerated Capacity Shortages 

With stringent storage requirements and a global surge of vaccine distribution, companies struggle to sustain the need for refrigerated capacity and storage with appropriate temperature regulations. There is an additional strain created by demand for vaccines and a shortage of other essential medical supplies such as needles, alcohol wipes, and essential critical PPE equipment. Working with a reliable, proven cold chain carrier ensures that vaccines and other temperature-sensitive shipments are transported in the safest and most efficient manner.

Vaccine Storage

One of the central difficulties of vaccine distribution is that each manufacturer has its own refrigerated storage requirements that need absolute and stringent compliance. For instance, Pfizer jab temperature storage is extremely low: between -80ºC and -60ºC (-112ºF to -76ºF). For the Moderna vaccine, the cold storage temperature is around -25°C to -15°C (-13°F and 5°F), while AstraZeneca, widely adopted in Europe, requires conditions between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (36 degrees to 46 degrees Fahrenheit). Companies that carry these vaccines have to be sure to stay compliant with the temperature requirements. 

To monitor such sensitive data, companies need specialized equipment. But there’s more to it than just gathering supply chain data: the next step is to accurately track and interpret it. Supply chain data centralization and automation makes it possible to create an integrated, well-run vaccine supply chain.

Vaccine Supply Chain Visibility Issues

Visibility and data centralization is vital to any supply chain, let alone a cold chain handling critical emergency medical supplies. Another case was seen with a factory mix-up at a Baltimore facility,  where 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were ruined due to improper cold chain handling. Most of these visibility challenges are caused by inconsistencies in the supply chain. Investing in digital supply chains and data centralization software will undoubtedly help accelerate efficient vaccine distribution.

How to Optimize the Vaccine Supply Chain?

Advanced Supply Chain Planning

The demand for vaccine production and distribution remains extremely volatile and unpredictable. Companies need to adjust production and transportation strategies to new conditions which creates a need for more resilient, agile, and proactive long-term supply chain planning. It is also important not only to plan for the future but to actively gather analytics and insights from real-time data across the supply chain to enable the proactive forecast for demand and identifying supply chain opportunities.

Cold Chain Equipment

The fast-paced vaccine supply chain requires reliable and quality equipment to avoid disruptions in transit. Apart from the special packages with temperature control and sensors, it is also critical to only purchase transportation services that adhere to the standards of vaccine transportation. Real-time shipment tracking and transmitting data from storage equipment to central information systems is a vital part of the process. 

Last-Mile Delivery

Last-mile delivery is considered one of the most difficult stages in the supply chain, and when it comes to the current immunization issue, it needs to be handled quickly and with constant monitoring. This means that shipments need to be tracked and monitored after they are taken out of the truck and moved to the hospital, warehouse, or another facility. 

How Can Digital Supply Chains Help with Vaccine Distribution?

A variety of stakeholders, multiple challenges, and generally turbulent conditions create a very complex cold supply chain ecosystem. It is a powerful, lively environment where everything changes in real-time. According to Gartner, supply chain models must be “highly robust and agile enough to accommodate shifting variables.” To reach success, businesses need to inject supply chain resilience and data centralization into their global cold supply chains. The best way to centralize all information sources and create an integrated supply chain environment is to set up a supply chain visibility platform.

Technology plays a leading role in ensuring that sensitive vaccine shipments are delivered in the right conditions and on time. Gathering this information from IoT-connected devices, and from the systems of supply chain stakeholders, lets businesses quickly  identify risks and discrepancies across the entire cold chain ecosystem. A recent report by DHL states that COVID-19 has demonstrated to logistics professionals that real-time supply chain visibility is a critical asset in any pandemic response.

The digital supply chain doesn’t just collect and interpret data across the vaccine supply chain but also ensures better information credibility. Ultimately, supply chain visibility and automation enable proactive collaboration, flexibility, and agility, which are the key components of a truly resilient vaccine supply chain. Data centralization and robust, integrated digital infrastructure are the drivers of end-to-end visibility. Eventually, resilience can be gained with a high level of supply chain transparency and connectivity. Investing in sophisticated digital solutions for data centralization and automation will be listed at the top of the business’ priorities in the near future.

Supply Chain Visibility with Agistix

Tech solutions like supply chain visibility platforms are an essential tool for supply chain transformation without disruption. They can help companies to streamline processes, track shipments and transactions in real-time, see historical data, and investigate supply chain gaps. Data centralization software helps companies enhance relationships with suppliers, improve on-time delivery rates, reduce operational and labor costs, automate processes, and improve collaboration and communication within the supply chain. 
Agistix’s robust visibility software can help tackle visibility challenges without disrupting your company’s business flow, as a seamless integration process requires no change to your regular operations. Check out Agistix solutions today!


Trevor Read

President at Agistix based in San Francisco. I am an entrepreneur with a passion for data, and technology. I am results-oriented and committed to developing fast-deployment solutions to help customers seize the new opportunity coming from big data in the global supply chain.