According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 19 Covid-19 vaccines are in the research and development pipeline, submitted for approval, or are already approved for emergency use.
As of writing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for emergency use in the US, namely Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Moderna, and Pfizer-BioNTech.
As with most temperature-sensitive products, COVID-19 vaccines are distributed from the production facility to the administration point using an unbroken refrigerated supply chain called the “cold chain.” That’s because the leading vaccines—the Moderna and Pfizer—require storage at ultra-low temperatures to maintain quality, integrity, and potency.
With a little shy of half of the US population unvaccinated, the COVID-19 vaccine push is in high gear, putting a spotlight on temperature monitoring for vaccines. In this article, we’re going to touch on key reasons why vaccine temperature monitoring is all the rage right now.
– Covid-19 Has Created Massive Vaccine Demand
Following the record development of coronavirus vaccines, practically every country and territory in the world is racing to get as many people vaccinated as possible. This has driven the demand for vaccines in general to an all-time high, hence the increased need for cold chain reevaluation and comprehensive vaccine temperature monitoring.
By the beginning of March 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory authorities across the globe had given the green light to several highly effective COVID-19 vaccines. In the US, the 7-day vaccination average has dropped from a peak of 3.38 million down to around 2.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccines being administered every day, and the federal government says well over 200 million shots have already ended in American arms.
Though this is a massive leap compared to other countries, especially developing nations, the end of the road is still admittedly far. In fact, the worldwide demand for COVID-19 vaccines far outstrips supply, especially in Africa, southwest Asia, and parts of Europe.
India, which recently opened up vaccination to 18-44-year-olds, is facing a grave shortage of Covid-19 vaccines amid a devastating second resurgence of infection. So far, roughly 124 million people in the country have received at least the first shot, accounting for just under 9 percent of the entire population of 1.4 billion, says BBC.
Serious vaccine shortages are also seen in Bangladesh, Syria, Yemen, Malaysia, and many other war-hit and poverty-ridden countries across the world.
When you shine the spotlight on Africa, where only 1 person in 500 has gotten vaccinated, the shortage situation is even more dire and grimmer. Part of the issue is that India, which produces the biggest chunk of the COVAX vaccine through the Serum Institute (SII), has made a decision to temporarily stop the export of vaccines in a bid to inoculate its population.
The truth is, making sure safe vaccines reach where they’re needed the most would help slow transmission and reduce the chances of new variants developing, thus bringing the pandemic under control sooner and saving more lives. Effective vaccine temperature monitoring is a crucial piece of that puzzle.
– The Covid-19 Vaccines Need Temperature Monitoring
Covid-19 vaccine temperature requirements do vary greatly from one vaccine to the next. For instance, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first to receive FDA emergency use authorization, must be shipped in a thermal shipper at ultra-low temperatures between -130°F to -76°F). Once in the vaccination facility, it can be kept in the refrigerator at between 2°C and 8°C for up to 31 days, according to the CDC.
On the other hand, the CDC says the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine must also be transported frozen at temperatures between -50°C and -15°C. Undamaged vials can be refrigerated between 2° to 8°C for up to 30 days.
Unlike the other two, the Janssen vaccine doesn’t require an ultra-low temperature cold chain, as it can be kept between 2°C and 8°C during both storage and shipping.
Clearly, all currently authorized Covid-19 vaccines must be temperature controlled at all points from manufacture to administration. And with good reason – exposure to higher than required temperatures may cause the vaccine to degrade and lose potency.
Temperature monitoring is extremely important in the Covid-19 vaccine cold chain because it can be impossible to visually detect vaccine damage due to temperature excursions. And the effect of using vaccines rendered useless due to poor temperature control can be devastating.
As with most vaccines, Covid-19 vaccines go through a long, complex web of supply chains that involve vaccine makers, distributors, and healthcare facilities, all of which possess a different set of skills, backgrounds, and expertise. Problems with a vaccine cold chain can also attract FDA audits and direct financial losses.
A good example is the state of Pennsylvania, where close to 20,000 doses of various Covid-19 vaccines have gone to waste due to incorrect temperature controls. There are also reports of widespread wastage of coronavirus vaccines across the board arising from poor temperature controls, affecting even big players like CVS and Walgreens.
– Finding and Implementing the Right Monitoring Solution Is Key
The main goal of temperature monitoring is to protect vaccines from temperature excursions by making sure they’re kept within a safe temperature range. However, there are several different risks involved in the process and they may vary depending on the point of the cold supply chain.
For instance, the placement of data loggers can create monitoring risks during the shipping and distribution phase. The same is also true of unforeseen logistical problems like parking issues and vehicle breakdown. Frequent opening of the freezer or refrigerator doors can also put the product at risk during storage and handling.
For this reason, finding and implementing an ideal temperature monitoring solution is key to ensuring vaccine safety and integrity. This requires all companies involved in the vaccine cold supply chain to stick to tried-and-true best practices for safe storage, handling, and distribution of vaccines.
For starters, you must define your organizational needs and put in place a thorough and clear installation plan. You’ll find more on vaccine temperature monitoring best practices in this guide from Dickson.
– Vaccine Temperature Monitoring Will Remain In Demand
The demand for temperature monitoring will remain high as long as the market for vaccines is still hot, as will be the case for the foreseeable future.
Fewer than 1.8 billion people have been fully inoculated against Covid-19 across the world, which means more than 88 percent of the global population remains unvaccinated.
Even after giving at least one dose to more than 289 million people, the United States — the world’s vaccine powerhouse — is yet to fully vaccinate roughly half of its population. Israel, which is currently considered the vaccination star, has yet to inoculate more than one-third of its population. Other nations, particularly those that are economically deprived or riven by war, have shown few signs of rolling out vaccinations.
There’s still a very long road towards the home stretch, and vaccine makers and handlers have their work cut out for them. Vaccine temperature monitoring will remain in high demand for many months to come.
With the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations picking up in many parts of the world, maintaining a strong, unbroken cold chain has become increasingly critical. After all, effective temperature monitoring is a core requirement for having a robust vaccine supply. As such, vaccine manufacturers and handlers need to find and put in place the right monitoring solutions.