Reliable cold storage solutions to safeguard COVID vaccines storage and distribution

The COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be a breakthrough in the fight against the pandemic. The demand for vaccine storage solutions is increasing in parallel with the massive R&D and manufacturing effort to accelerate the vaccine development. As government and bio pharma players continue to prioritize vaccine development for mass immunization against COVID-19, bulk production, and distribution of the vaccine without efficient cold storage has a potential to put the vaccine supply at a risk.

One of the most prominent challenges faced by vaccine manufacturers, laboratories, and hospitals is the mismanagement of storage units and anomalies in maintaining optimum temperatures required for vaccine storage. The WHO estimates that more than 50 percent of vaccines may be wasted globally every year due to temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues. Maintaining adequate and accurate cold storage could be a constraint given that the number of vaccines produced are relatively large. Further, temperature variations can significantly shorten shelf-life, degrade enzymes, and impact the viability and efficacy of vaccines.

While safe delivery and storage conditions for vaccines are being handled, there are still challenges to fulfil the wide-ranging storage requirements of several vaccines available in the country. Novel vaccine formats will require unconventional vaccine storage points at -20ºC and -80ºC for the long term, while others require a more common +2ºC to +8ºC temperature range. As in the case with mRNA and viral vector- based approaches, there is a clear need for colder storage solutions throughout the cold chain, from production to distribution and end-point storage.

At Thermo Fisher Scientific, we provide vaccine manufacturers, cold chain logistic service providers, hospitals and clinics with technologies ranging from precise lab refrigerators (20-80C), freezers (-200 to -400C) and ultra-low temperature freezers (-860C) needed to deliver every vaccine at full strength and efficacy. Globally, we have partnerships with state, health departments and contract distributors for storage and handling requirements. Our continued investment in cold chain storage, as well as distribution capability across the network mirrors the industry’s evolution to handle increased quantities of complex cold chain biologics. In India, we are working with key decision makers to ensure the country is better prepared and equipped for effective distribution and last mile storage of Covid-19 vaccine. 

Vaccine production has become the global priority, and it is time for the industry and government to collaborate to address the evolving supply chain demands. With the ongoing surge in the COVID cases, we anticipate the addition of newer vaccines, need for booster doses, and therapeutics such as cell therapies that will require diverse storage temperatures. This will further augment the effective usage of the cold-chain infrastructure. Looking forward, the build-out of cold-chain infrastructure to manufacture, store, and transport COVID-19 vaccines will be significant.

Story contribution by Amit Chopra, Managing Director, India and South Asia, Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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