Vaccine distribution: Putting our plans into action
From the outset, it was clear that one of the key routes out of the pandemic would be a vaccine. For high levels of immunization, around 10 billion vaccine doses are required globally by end of 2021. These numbers indicate the unprecedented size of the logistics challenge in worldwide vaccine delivery. The pandemic has shone a light on how vital a role international logistics networks play in ensuring that supply chains remain undisrupted and essential supplies are delivered.
So far, Thailand has received 3.5 million Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses, delivered by DHL Express. Two million of which were recently delivered on 29 September.
To date, DHL has delivered 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to over 160 countries worldwide, thus playing a key role in the global vaccination roll-out. The company has implemented reliable services at an accelerated speed to ship the highly temperature-sensitive vaccines. In line with our purpose of connecting people and improving lives, DHL will continue tapping into the cold chain infrastructure, resilient global network, logistics knowledge and experience of the people.
How quickly the world can overcome this pandemic together depends on effective vaccine distribution. DHL has worked hard for years to establish and expand its dedicated global Life Sciences & Healthcare (LSH) network and the time has come to begin focusing on the next logistics hurdle.
As outlined in DHL’s white paper “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience”, the logistics infrastructure and capacity built up for the pandemic should be maintained because another 7-9 billion vaccine doses will be needed annually in the coming years to keep (re-)infection rates low and to slow down the pace of virus mutations – not counting seasonal fluctuations.
Stringent temperature requirements
One of the biggest challenges for the distribution of the vaccines is the strict temperature conditions in which some of them must be stored – as low as minus 80°C. This poses specific logistics problems to existing medical supply chains that conventionally distribute vaccines at ~2–8°C, and to regions with limited cold chain infrastructure. We also estimated a need for up to 200,000 pallet shipments, 15 million cooling boxes, and 15,000 flights across the various supply chain setups to provide global coverage of the anticipated 10 billion doses needed worldwide.
Vaccines are high-value, extremely sensitive, and temperature-controlled items, which means that the stakes are high. Any misstep in the logistics chain could result in lives being lost. Transporting vaccines requires a highly coordinated approach, backed by trained people and certified infrastructure. This includes intimate knowledge of the minute details, such as packaging, storing, air and land routing, timing, carrier selection, specific handling requirements, and more.
We are leveraging our suite of alternative transportation modes, such as courier, charters, and air combination, while tapping into our logistics specialists, life sciences infrastructure, and supplier networks to ensure that vaccine rollout logistics are not disrupted. To meet extreme temperature requirements, we have invested in additional cold chain infrastructure , such as ultra-low-temperature freezers, and expanded our LSH capacity, as well as successfully achieved IATA CEIV Pharma recertification for our GxP (good practice) facilities in Germany.
Getting critical medical supplies to the right place at the right time is a mission we accomplish every day. That experience and expertise is now paying off, as the current COVID-19 crisis has reminded us all how vital it is to have a sophisticated supply chain in place to safely and reliably transport and store life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
Vaccine distribution requires the right infrastructure
Indeed, a robust infrastructure comprising a pre-established network of warehouses and transportation capabilities is necessary to ensuring a steady flow of critical supplies. End-to-end supply chain solutions with real-time stock level visibility is also important making sure that supply matches demand.
It takes an established worldwide logistics network certified to transport and warehouse life sciences products such as vaccines to ensure the necessary conditions and quality checks exist along the supply chain. Our team of more than 9,000 LSH specialists works across our dedicated global network, and includes 150+ pharmacists, 20+ clinical trials depots, 100+ certified stations, 160+ GDP-qualified warehouses, 15+ GMP-certified sites, and 135+ medical express sites. With our aircraft fleet of more than 280 dedicated aircraft, numerous partner airlines, and a hub and gateway network spanning more than 220 countries and territories, DHL is optimally equipped and prepared for the worldwide supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Vaccine distribution is only the start of pandemic resilience
This COVID-19 pandemic is not the first the world has faced and will certainly not be the last. To ensure a safe and secure medical supply now and in the future, the world’s governments need to establish partnerships and set up public health crisis management systems.
It is important to establish active partnerships, expanded global warning systems, an integrated epidemic prevention plan, and targeted R&D investments to help us be better prepared for the next international health crisis. We encourage everyone in the Life Sciences and Healthcare community – from governments and NGOs to pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers, and logistics companies – to act now.
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