The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has already begun to be distributed and administered in the UK following approval from the country’s medical regulator.

In November 2020, US-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech announced it’s joint Covid-19 vaccine was ready to be distributed.

This was swiftly followed up by similar announcements being made by US-based biotechnology company Moderna and the UK’s Oxford vaccines.

The Covid-19 distribution and vaccination process is seen by many to be the largest such undertaking in human history, only even vaguely similar to that of the flu vaccine.

Speaking to NS Packaging, Glenn Richey – Harbert eminent scholar and chairman of the department of supply chain management at the US-based Auburn University – says there are some differences, most notably that the flu vaccine is “not being transported at the scale we’re seeing here”.

What tests could the Pfizer vaccine supply chain encounter?

The reason why Pfizer/BioNTech is distributing the doses directly to the POU is, in part, to limit the amount of human handling of the vials there are.

One positive, specifically in the US, is the fact that Pfizer/BioNTech is utilising existing supply chain providers including FedEx, DHL and UPS.

These businesses have experienced full traceability, meaning they can see where the vaccine is at all times, and where it went along the stops.

Lisa Anderson, who prior to setting up her own supply chain consultancy worked for a company that distributed products to hospitals, nursing homes and at home care places, believes it’s a good idea to use existing networks.

Speaking to NS Packaging, she explains: “There’s a network already set up for those avenues, so let’s not create a new one and instead utilise an existing network, pretty much taking priority over other supplies that might get delivered – but it makes sense.”

Describing the track and trace capabilities of these companies, she adds: “There’s a lot of things you can do these days with IoT and technology to better monitor the vehicles and its drivers, with some even capable of knowing whether or not a driver needs to pull over for a rest.

“Some of these aren’t specifically about the vaccine, but there’s a lot they can do to trace where their trucks are.

“And for sure when it comes to the vaccine, they’re going to want to keep a secure supply chain because that’s important to the whole thing.”

Alongside this, planes are going to be leaving Pfizer facilities in the US daily to take vaccines around the country and the world.

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Published in NS Packaging on December 14, 2020