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Is Our Global Supply Chain Ready for the COVID-19 Vaccine?



The rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine demonstrates great scientific achievements, promising to help billions of people overcome the disease. However, freight companies that have struggled with drastic financial and logistical obstacles for months will now face a serious challenge in performing at levels even higher than before the pandemic. Without serious improvements and planning, the supply chain will not be able to handle mass vaccine distribution smoothly.


Old System, New Challenges

Even before the onset of COVID-19, freight companies experienced problems with old technology and cumbersome paperwork that slowed large shipments. Now that the pandemic has set in, these companies have much lower capacity than before due to changes and restrictions in the workforce.

These systemic and temporary limitations put logistics companies in a unique spot compared to the rest of the economy. While everyone else is hunkering down to weather the COVID storm, these companies will need to push extreme scaling-up to drive one of the largest and most consequential product launches the world has ever seen.


Complexities of Vaccine Supply Chains

On top of generic logistics concerns, the delicate nature of shipping vaccines presents further problems. These products can’t receive the same treatment as everyday consumer goods, adding additional layers of complexity to the supply chain process. As logistics companies work to prepare for the vaccine shipments, they need not only reliable space capacity but also carriers with the capability for preserving the medication. Refrigeration is a critical aspect that must be present throughout the shipping process. Even the smallest fluctuations in temperature can ruin whole batches of the precious cargo.

Another limitation is the need for freight handlers to obtain proper training and qualifications. With people’s lives on the line, vaccine cargo handlers need the appropriate skills and knowledge to get the job done. Leaving a box of vaccines on the tarmac could cost lives. All of these challenges only compound when it comes to delivering vaccines to more remote and impoverished areas of the world.


What Needs to Happen

A significant shortage of appropriate freighter aircraft means preparations will need to include extensive planning to maximize the capacity of cargo freighters over time. Consideration of alternative options may also be necessary to make up for the capacity limitations of traditional air cargo. Shipping by ocean is a viable alternative in certain routes that have relatively short transit times.

It will be crucial for the supply chain as a whole to plan for the upcoming vaccine distribution process from start to finish. Even airports with experience handling pharmaceuticals will not be able to suddenly receive a large surge of vaccines without carefully planning how to both receive and distribute them. Extensive communication and organization are crucial for preventing everything from unnecessary losses to corruption and fraud.

Contact us today and see how we may assist with your supply chain planning to prevent possible disruptions.

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