The importance of vaccine cold chain logistics

Cold chain logistics are a constant challenge for the healthcare supply chain. With the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines the whole pharmaceutical supply chain is facing a huge and complex task.

How do you safely distribute vaccines through the supply chain at the required scale without any deviations? As stated by Q1 Scientific CEO, Stephen Delaney in a recent The Science of Business podcast,

“Cold chain distribution in pharma is complicated even in normal times.”

According to IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, the biopharma industry loses approximately $35 billion annually because of failures in temperature-controlled logistics. Temperature excursions or deviations from the required storage conditions is a major concern for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Therefore, expertise in managing the storage and transport of vaccine vials is important says Stephen Delaney,

“No one wants to say that a batch of 5000 vials can’t be used because the freezer switched off in the middle of the night or because the dry ice ran out. That’s obviously a disaster situation! The system to store, transport and administer the vaccine will have to be extremely well planned if the healthcare system is to avoid waste. Those doing it need to know the challenges, things like how long a dry ice transport will last or things that break in -80oC freezers. They do break, things fail, compressors break and you have to have the spare parts, know how to fix them and know what time limits you have to work within.”

Throughout the cold chain there needs to be processes and tools in place that limit improper handling, temperature excursions and deviations to prevent the loss of vaccines.

What is cold chain logistics?

The transportation of temperature-controlled products, including vaccines, must meet pharmaceutical manufacturers’ requirements. Cold chain logistics serves to keep temperature-controlled products such as vaccines at set conditions across every aspect of the supply chain. This goes from procurement right through to transport and distribution.

Temperature-sensitive products must be kept at a consistent, specific temperature or temperature range throughout their lifecycle. Conditions such as temperature and humidity are monitored continually throughout the supply chain and must be maintained within tight limits. A rise or fall in temperature or humidity in the cold chain will render any vaccines ineffective.

The importance of cold chain logistics and monitoring conditions

Prior to launch, vaccines and other pharmaceutical products undergo robust stability testing to check their performance at certain temperature and humidity conditions. Data from testing is then used to identify the conditions a vaccine or drug product can be stored at without impacting its performance. It is important to maintain temperature-controlled cold chain conditions from vaccine production until administration. Ultimately, storing vaccines and drug products at the right conditions keeps them effective.

Research from the World Economic Forum has highlighted that over 50% of vaccines are wasted globally each year because of temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues.

In addition, a recent article by All Things Supply Chain highlighted research around cold chain logistics from the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics. Research showed that:

  • 25% of vaccines are degraded when they reach their destination because of “incorrect shipping”
  • 30% of pharmaceuticals that cannot be used are disposed of specifically because of logistics problems
  • 20% of temperature sensitive products are damaged because the cold chain is disrupted during transport

The All Things Supply Chain article goes on to say that,

“Typically, quality-related issues such as these could be addressed by shipping surplus, but there will be so much demand for the COVID-19 vaccine that every lost or ruined dose will be keenly felt by medical professionals and patients alike. Protecting the usability rate of shipped vaccines will rely upon both tracking and final-mile handoff.”

How can Q1 Scientific help with cold chain logistics?

As a leading provider of temperature-controlled stability storage, Q1 Scientific understand the demands and critical conditions required for pharmaceutical storage and transportation. Working together with our customers we create the best possible conditions for packaging and transportation.

Q1 Scientific offer temperature-controlled transport from chilled to ambient transport, and even -80oC shipments. An independent monitoring datalogger is available within our transport units to record the temperature for the duration of the journey. After a delivery/collection we can download the data from this unit and provide you with a report.

Q1 Scientific CEO, Stephen Delaney says that,

“The storage of COVID-19 vaccines in Ireland won’t be a problem. Q1 Scientific currently has 52 temperature-controlled stability storage chambers in a 20,000 sq ft facility in Waterford. There is further expansion on the horizon with the facility being extended and new chambers being built.”

“We have 52 stability chambers at our facility in Waterford all operating at different temperatures depending on the demand of our customers. The core of our business is how strictly controlled and monitored our chambers are, we don’t have a chamber that is roughly 25oC, they are precisely 25oC at every minute of every day for the specified timeframe. We operate storage from 25oC all the way down to -80oC. We have probes inside each room, and they take a reading every minute, these readings are then sent back to a centralised system which is bespoke to Q1 Scientific; controls like this are the reason that pharmaceutical companies work with us.”

To find out more, contact us today.