Supply chain readies to deliver 9 million Covid-19 vaccines a day

Marking 2021 as the year of cold chain logistics

Supply chain
Photo - SGS

As the world awaits the approval of Covid-19 vaccines, the worldwide freight industry is gearing up for an initial 2021 goal of transporting an average of 271 million ultracold and cold doses a month (9 million doses a day). Early modeling by global tech market advisory firm ABI Research shows that there will be at least 857 temperature-controlled trucks leaving Pfizer and Moderna manufacturing facilities or distribution centers each month. Should AstraZeneca also receive approval, these numbers will be materially increased. Distribution and delivery will continue to grow and get more complicated after the large urban and suburban areas are covered.

In its new whitepaper, 68 Technology trends that will shape 2021, ABI Research’s analysts identify 37 trends that will shape the technology market and 31 others that, although attracting huge speculation and commentary, are less likely to move the needle over the next twelve months. “For success in 2021, especially after a very challenging 2020, one must understand fundamental trends early, and take a view on those trends that are buoyed by hyperbole and those that are sure to be uncomfortable realities. Now is the time to double down on the right technology investment,” says Stuart Carlaw, chief research officer at ABI Research.

What will happen in 2021 – Vaccine Freezer Frenzy

“Early vaccine candidates require ultra-low temperatures, as much as -70 degrees Celsius, or -94 Fahrenheit. This is impacted by a lack of adequate storage capacity for these new types of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. The containers to store and transport them are not widely available and not required for common vaccines. Constant temperature control is needed from the manufacturing site to the inoculation sites. According to known criteria, people will require two vaccines from the same manufacturer within 21 to 28 days. That equates to at least 662 million doses in the United States and approximately 1.5 billion across the European Union,” explains Susan Beardslee, freight transportation and logistics principal analyst at ABI Research.

Much of the focus, to date, has been on fulfillment centers and modal capacity for air. Another concern is the need to track temperatures and provide alerts for any out-of-spec loads seamlessly. This involves integrated software, sufficient compute and sensor capabilities throughout, and public and private entities’ cooperation across multiple modes and likely competitors. “The scale of technology, strategy, and operations excellence needed will require transparency, flexibility, and scale never seen, and will take herculean efforts beyond the actual vaccine development and approval,” Beardslee points out.

What Won’t Happen in 2021 – No Global Supply Chain Return to the “Before Times”

“Although goods transportation has seen a promising rebound from the spring, pinch points continue, from driver shortages (back to 2018 levels) to container shortages and carrier bankruptcies due to increasing insurance costs and lower profits. Further digitization and integration of systems will provide greater visibility, flexibility, and ROI to supply chain participants that can improve economic performance, but likely after 2021 on a broader scale,” Beardslee explains.


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