4 Big Challenges in Administering the COVID-19 Vaccine
The race for developing a COVID-19 vaccine began as soon as the novel coronavirus’s genetic makeup got revealed in January. Two companies, viz. Pfizer and partner BioNTech have announced that their vaccines appear safe and are about 95% effective. As the United Kingdom is closer to giving full approval of the vaccines, more and more countries are expected to follow suit.
But another race of a higher level might have just begun. One should know that vaccines won’t be successful until enough people are vaccinated to prevent further spreading of the virus. It precisely creates a situation of a logistical nightmare.
Administering the COVID-19 Vaccine
This article will see some of the most challenging aspects of administering the COVID-19 vaccine to billions of people on earth. This short read will help you to understand the sheer magnitude and intensity of this unprecedented task ahead. So let us get started,
Challenge # 1 – Managing the Last Mile
You might have come across the news that most COVID-19 vaccines in development require two doses for having a full effect in people. It means there will be a need for roughly 15 billion doses globally. If one were to imagine the technical and logistical challenges for getting this much quantity of vaccines to the nook and corner of the world, the idea would be clear.
Pfizer vaccine, the first thoroughly tested vaccine to get permission for emergency use, must be kept frozen at -70 °C. It is mind-boggling to think of other vaccines, which are very stable, even when stored at temperatures ranging between -20°C to -30°C. Another COVID-19 vaccine, called Moderna, also needs to be kept around the same temperature as Pfizer’s. Both Pfizer and Modern vaccines require an ultra-low temperature freezer, a refrigerator capable of storing contents up to -80°C.
Coming to the logistics part, it is a fact that there isn’t a massive supply of refrigerator and freezer trucks, planes, and tracks that can transport such chilly goods. Due to the urgency, air freights will be needed at least for longer distances.
It is also estimated that over the next two years, approximately 15,000 flights and nearly 15 million cooling boxes would be needed for the final distribution.
Challenge # 2 – Keeping the Vaccines Cold at All Times
Pfizer has designed special shipping containers, known as pizza boxes (as they resemble the food delivery container), which can be recharged with dry ice to keep the company vaccine cold in transit for short term storage. But the problem is that this recharge won’t last long. So providers shall need to find local sources of dry ice, which may be highly difficult as far as rural areas are concerned.
Yet, dry ice is highly prone to sublimation and can also turn directly into carbon dioxide gas. The fumes can build up and suffocate people if there’s not enough ventilation, which could make transporting and storing vaccines cooled with dry ice a vast problem.
Challenge # 3 – The Dilemma Regarding Dosage
If you were to talk about the United States, each of the states isn’t sure how many vaccines they will get from the federal government. It makes it hard to calculate how many doses the state will bring in total for health care workers and people in long-term care homes, who will be the first ones to get the vaccines. Plus, the two-dose requirement for most COVID-19 vaccines adds to the supply problems as well. Moreover, it would be against doctors’ moral and ethical obligation if they fail to provide a second dose after initially vaccinating them.
One must also know that both doses of the vaccine need to be from the same company, and keeping track of who got vaccinated and which vaccine they got also pose a significant challenge. Also, the existing database may need to be beefed up heavily to manage billions of patient data and keep it well-integrated.
Challenge # 4 – Logistical Nightmare
Last but not least, it isn’t the vaccines that need to be rolled out smoothly. Suppliers of glass vials that store the vaccines have to make sure they have enough surgical-grade sand to manufacture the vials. Nurses who are administering the vaccine shots also need alcohol wipes, needles, syringes, masks, and gloves, some of which are short in supply in many places.
One must remember that even if the medical industry gets the best logistics, all of it would be futile if common people fail to take measures like universal mask wearing and social distancing. Ultimately, these measures shall only help slow the spread of the virus.
If the rate of virus transmission is higher, even the highly effective vaccine will struggle to make a dent in this pandemic’s trajectory.
You have just seen a few of the biggest challenges in front of the medical industry in immunizing the whole world against COVID-19. From this article, it would be clear that there is a need to bring trust and transparency for the effective management of all the health care essentials. Hopefully, the supply chain partners and all the government bodies will overcome all the obstacles in improving the services during this pandemic.
About the Author
Mila Jones is a Senior Business Consultant, with rich experience in the domains of technology consulting and strategy. She works with both established technology brands and market entrants to offer research inputs and insights on leveraging technology as a source of strategic competitive advantage. Further, she is a prolific author and shares her expertise with tech enthusiasts on popular digital publishing platforms. She loves not only to write about several topics but also loves to explore new ideas about Lifestyle, Travel blogs and many more.