In case you missed the news, last month, India crossed the landmark of administering 100 crore covid vaccine doses across the country.
To understand how significant the achievement is, we are the second country next to China to reach the milestone.
Though we still have many milestones along the way to completely vaccinate the world’s second-largest populated country, yet one question kept bothering me after the news.
What made us possible to achieve this feat by October 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic caught us unprepared in early 2020?
What happened in the meantime? – Let’s try to understand it.
After the initial unsettling months over nationwide lockdown and uncertainty over what was next in the store, the news about vaccines’ development, evaluation, and production for Covid-19 gave us a ray of hope.
The very idea that we can get to administer COVID-19 vaccines widely as late as 2020 is ground-breaking.
If you are wondering, here is why?
Historically, vaccine development takes over 5 to 20 years to bring it for public use.
Once we had a vaccine ready, the next challenge was getting those vaccines to our critical mass population in our rural parts of the country.
In the logistics industry, it is called last-mile delivery.
For any business, the last-mile delivery system is a crucial part of a successful logistics operation. To make that happen, you need to track and manage your supply-chain network efficiently from the first mile to the last mile of the system.
We also need to note that COVID-19 vaccine logistics involve complexity at every level of its operation, unlike regular cold-chain logistics operations.
Critical Concerns in Vaccine Logistics
- Vaccine storage
- Distribution and delivery timeline
- Vehicle tracking
- Capacity constraints
- Vaccine-waste disposal mechanism
- Reverse logistics.
Let’s try to understand the complexity involved in vaccine logistics with a simple illustration.
Consider Serum Institute of India dispatches their 1000kg of vaccine consignment from its Pune facility to Chennai via Air transport in a cold-chain facility.
It’s taken to the unique regional cold-storage center in cold-chain storage reefer and later dispatched to the respective areas where people get administered the vaccine shot.
If there is an unused vaccine or not fit to be used due to damage or any other reason. This has to be tracked and taken back to the larger regional facility (reverse logistics).
Once its condition is checked, it can be either used again or disposed-off properly without damaging the environment.
This whole vaccine logistics doesn’t sound simple, right?
So to make sure everyone gets vaccinated, we need a tech-enabled solution that will efficiently assist in the end-to-end management of vaccine logistics operations.
So, the answer to that is a telematics-based fleet management system.
Before knowing how the telematics system helps us in vaccine shipment, let’s quickly understand what telematics is?
In simple terms, telematics is an interdisciplinary field of bringing together telecommunication, i.e., wireless communication technology devices, and information processing using computer systems.
How does it work?
A telematics system includes physical tracking devices installed in your vehicle that sends, receive, and stores data. These connected devices transmit data via the internet to secure mobile/web software applications or websites.
If you are a fleet owner, you can access a wide range of data at just a click of a button without having to call your fleet driver at any given point for the entire duration of the trip.
- Live vehicle locations
- Vehicle speed monitoring
- Idling time
- Vehicle usage
- Fuel consumption
- Consignment status
- Vehicle health
- Driver behaviour
- Trip status, and more.
Telematics fleet management solution is not just about monitoring these data points; the fleet owner can store, share and interact with these data in real-time and optimise their trip function as and when needed.
It opens up a whole new horizon of possibilities for logistics business owners, irrespective of their fleet size, which wasn’t possible in the legacy supply-chain system.
Now that you know the 1, 2, and 3 of telematics, let’s see how much telematics means to the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
As mentioned before, handling cold-chain vaccine logistics comes with severe constraints; let see one such scenario:
1.Storage, stability and disposal of vaccines
For an unopened multidose COVIDSHIELD vial
- Store in a refrigerator at a temperature between (2 to 8 degrees Celsius)
- Keep away from the sunlight.
- Vial not be kept in freezing condition.
For opened multi-dose vial
- After the first opening, the vaccine vial should be used within 6 hours at room temperature for average room temperature, up to 30 degrees Celsius.
- 48 hours in a refrigerated condition (2 to 8 degrees celsius)
The vial should be re-refrigerated, but the cumulative storage should be within 48 hours.
Note: Each vial contains 20 shots of the Covidshield vaccine.
To keep a check on the complete vaccine consignment during the entire duration of the fleet from the first mile, the manufacturing unit to the last mile, the area of the vaccination drive, telematics-assisted systems helps the fleet operators to track the temperature and maintain it at the optimal level of 2 degree Celsius to 8 degree Celsius remotely.
If there is any drop in the temperature, the fleet operators can optimize it back to the required level in real-time.
You can also reroute the vaccine doses to the other places of requirement if needed. As the fleet vehicle operations can be viewed parallelly in real-time, you can manage with ease.
Other than the scenario mentioned above, there are exceptional cases where some vaccines demand rigorous cold-chain capacity. For example, Pfizer NBioTech Vaccine (Comirnaty) temperature should be maintained at -20°C to -80°C during storage and transport for more vaccine effectiveness.
“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 20% of temperature-sensitive medical/healthcare products get damaged in transportation, and 25% of healthcare products reach the assigned destination in a degraded condition, which means it’s not fit to be used.”
It means the loss of vaccines is directly proportional to the ineffectiveness of our fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the vaccine consignment needs to be sent to a particular location, the fleet owner can schedule the complete trip using telematics software like FleetOS from the pickup point to the drop location and assign a driver. This information will be directly passed on to the designated driver via driver apps like DRS mobile application as a push notification.
Using telematics applications the fleet owners track the trip’s journey for the entire route and instruct the driver to reroute the trip when they take the wrong route or long drive to reach the destination.
By doing so, you will be able to check the journey details and keep a check on the fuel consumption for any given trip.
For the effective handling of vaccine logistics, WHO issued guidance for countries to:
- develop and strengthen supply chain strategies to receive, store, distribute and manage COVID-19 vaccines and their ancillary products;
- distribute COVID-19 vaccines from the port of entry up to the most remote vaccination sites;
- ensure the quality, efficacy, proper tracking, reporting of vaccine utilisation, and safety of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the supply chain;
- assess, design, and implement appropriate waste management mechanisms to safely treat and dispose of waste while protecting the environment and populations;
- strengthen the proper cold chain and logistics requirements, including reverse logistics, and provide tools to support country readiness activities.
In India, the entire journey of vaccine information is fed on the Co-WIN (Covid-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network) digital application. The real-time information like vaccine and storage temperature, quantity in a consignment is fed and transmitted at a regular interval. In case of any issue, the programme managers can flag and inform the relevant authorities.
This public health crisis was not the first, nor will it be the last. Vaccine transport puts technology to the test and spotlights the true advantages of connected fleets and information-sharing.
It is imperative to build a well-oiled cold-chain system that can stand up to this pandemic and the ones that will follow.
Cold chain logistics require immense attention to detail, and even more so when vaccines are the cargo shipment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought one long-term goal into focus for all governments around the world: the capacity to successfully weather the next global health crisis. This will require a resilient and adaptive medical supply chain.
Until next time…