How IoT is aiding the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain

Al Sisto

Blog by: Al Sisto - 26 / Feb / 2021

The approval and rollout of the multiple Covid-19 vaccines has been a bright spot in a year which saw the world plunged into an unprecedented uncertainty. However, the current vaccines each have specific criteria which must be met in order to make sure they are effective, which has meant that the supply chain has had to consider smart ways to ensure successful delivery.

As with a lot of industries and supply chains, those in charge of rolling out Covid-19 vaccines have turned to IoT technology for reliable solutions.

Onboard temperature monitoring

One of the greatest issues facing the successful delivery of vaccine doses is the temperature that each has to be stored at to prevent degradation. If the Pfizer vaccine is not kept at a temperature below -70°C then it loses its efficacy, while Moderna's product must stay at -20°C.

Under these conditions, temperature monitoring becomes critical in the fight to save lives. If a batch of either Pfizer or Moderna's vaccines is spoiled during transport then it will have serious repercussions and push relief efforts back for a considerable amount of time. 

In order to prevent this scenario from occurring, IoT devices are being put in place to keep track of the temperature in storage facilities and during transportation. IoT is already commonly deployed to measure quality indicators for medications and other perishable products, so calibrating sensors to cover each vaccine's requirements is a simple task.

Real-time alerts

Utilising IoT means that temperatures can also be monitored remotely and in transit, with the capability for alerts to be sent out should cooling systems begin to operate below acceptable parameters or fail entirely. In that scenario, the logistics group responsible for the trucks would be able to take assertive action by redirecting drivers along faster routes, or ordering them back to the depot so that dosages can be rescued. Without IoT sensors to provide this data, the risk of losing large amounts of vaccine would be much higher.

Using real-time alerts also means that other stakeholders, such as the hospital trusts receiving the vaccine can also be kept abreast of delivery slots and delays

Planning and analytics

Being able to track and monitor the transportation of batches is one positive element to using IoT in the vaccine supply chain, but another is access to reporting and analytics dashboards.

Using these tools, and the data that they provide, planning of future deliveries can be improved alongside the creation of more comprehensive risk management plans.

All-in-one IoT supply chain management

While none of the above solutions represent huge leaps forward in technology, and certainly haven't been developed specifically to aid in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, they can still be daunting for some to implement. Thankfully, some companies are now providing Critical Asset Monitoring (CAM) systems which provide hardware, communications, cloud analytics, and reporting tools in one ready-to-use package, making it easier than ever to successfully deliver dosages to those providing them.

End-to-end inventory monitoring

The capability to utilise end-to-end monitoring is vital when it comes to providing updates to recipients, but it also allows carriers to avoid damage and theft of vaccine deliveries.

Tagging each vaccine batch will give supply chain managers the data needed to gain a holistic view of the vaccines in their charge, including those in storage, in transit, or delivered but not yet used.

What's more, it is possible to record information on stock that includes manufacturer and expiration date, allowing for better planned distribution and storage. Product flow can be improved thanks to more informed decisions on distribution, ordering, order allocation and returns, all of which helps to avoid wastage due to shelf life, and overloading on stock.

Track and trace capabilities such as these mean that logistics providers, pharmacies, and hospitals no longer have to rely on physically counting stocks when taking inventory, with the numbers of recorded and actual doses easily reconciled.

Lastly, utilising IoT and data in this way allows for much better monitoring of when first doses have been given, and when second doses are due, as well as the overall amount of stock each hospital, GP or vaccination centre has access to and when they'll need more.


Topics: IoT, COVID-19, Coronavirus, vaccine development, supply chain

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