Is the Supply Chain Ready to Save the Day?
Questions are mounting as to whether the global supply chain has the capacity and resources to dissemenate a future Covid-19 vaccine globally.
Alarm bells started to sound towards the end of July, when various sectors within the supply chain acknowledged they would struggle to meet potential demand.
Such demand would be larger than anything witnessed prior, with billions of people requiring the vaccine in an lready stretched and beleagured supply chain.
'We're not prepared'
Neel Jones Shah, global head of air carrier relationships at San Francisco-based freight forwarder Flexport, said recently: "We’re not prepared."
“Let’s all be honest here," he continued, "vaccine supply chains are exponentially more complex than PPE [personal protective equipment] supply chain.
“You can’t ruin PPE by leaving it on the tarmac for a couple of days. You will destroy vaccines.”
Shah's warning is one that has been heeded and it is a reality supply chain players must face as they begin to strategise.
Vaccine within the next year
Given that scientists have stated the earliest a vaccine could be made available for widespread public use would be mid-2021, the supply chain now faces a race against time to be ready.
At the time of writing (early October, 2020), there has been over 32 millions cases of Covid-19, which includes over 1 million deaths.
As well as the logistical difficulties of moving the vaccine through the global chain, a raft of other problems also plague planners.
With the US set to go to the polls in November, uncertainty reigns over US policy, although it's trade deadlock with China is unlikely to drastically change given any change in government.
Meanwhile in Europe, Brexit will complicate matters with regards to cross-border trade also.
One cold solution that's heating up...
Given the need for novel strategies and solutions, DP World has recently released a piece of thought-leadership pointing to the importance of the contemporary cold-chain.
Given freezing vaccines is a way to keep them safe and fresh, DP World stated in a press release: "...vaccines will have to be kept frozen for transportation, with pharmaceutical companies claiming their products will need to be kept at temperatures of as low as -80 degrees Celsius, prior to thawing for use.
"This anticipated demand is generating considerable interest in the logistics of cold supply.
"Temperature controlled transportation is already a dramatically growing market (predicted to grow nearly 18% in the first half of this decade).
"The result are significant investments in new technology and processes that can improve the effectiveness and reliability of cold chain logistics.
"There is a broad range of solutions to keep perishable products at far sub-zero temperatures as they criss-cross oceans and continents - including liquid nitrogen, frozen carbon dioxide (also known as dry ice) and chemical gels with low specific heat capacities that can freeze and thaw quickly.
"This technology is continually improving, through an ongoing process of research and development."