Outlining logistics priorities for vaccine delivery
During the Global Vaccine Logistics Virtual Summit 2020, the regulator and the policymaker put forth priorities for the logistics industry to prepare themselves for this Herculean task.
With the SARS-CoV-2 taking more than 1.3 million lives globally, India has the opportunity to take the lead in tackling a pandemic by acting in solidarity and utilising its pharmaceutical prowess for the benefit of all. With that, lies a bigger responsibility on the logistics community to support the mass distribution of the vaccines. During the Global Vaccine Logistics Virtual Summit 2020, the regulator and the policymaker put forth priorities for the logistics industry to prepare themselves for this Herculean task.
An effective vaccine remains a key focus of the world’s current response to Covid-19. Laboratories across the world are working around the clock to design and deliver an effective vaccine in record time, with some products already in phase three trials, which is the final stage of testing whether a vaccine is safe and effective for widespread rollout.
Along with 167 other countries, India has joined the COVAX facility, which has the biggest and most diverse Covid-19 vaccine portfolio in the world. Once the vaccine is approved for widespread use, the next step in the journey would be the mass distribution of the vaccines to the remotest corners of the world.
India is one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world and it currently exports vaccines used in immunization programs to more than 150 countries. Chandrashekar Ranga, deputy drugs controller (India), at CDSCO, at the recently concluded Global Vaccine Logistics Virtual Summit 2020, informed that vaccine manufacturers have allocated their current manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines at 1.5 billion doses. Once the vaccine hits the market, manufacturers will create further capacity depending upon the need. This only goes to show that India not only caters to the domestic market, but will also be in a position to cater to the global market.
Preserving the potency of vaccines is key
Ranga spoke at length about the size of India’s vaccine industry, the types of vaccines in development and the challenges before the logistics industry for vaccine delivery. According to him, from the logistic perspective, preserving the potency of the vaccine holds key. “Preserving the potency is a challenge. Vaccines are manufactured with various technologies and because of this pandemic; we see a lot of newer technologies that are being used to manufacture them,” he said.
Ranga, however, informed that none of the vaccines may require temperatures as low as -18 degree C in the finished form. While maintaining cold chain remains a challenge for the logistics industry, effectively transporting the vaccines with a minimum transit time is equally critical. He also urged the industry to adhere and comply with the WHO guidelines for international packaging and shipping and vaccine cold chain. Ranga also pressed the need for the industry to come with economically feasible solutions to cater to this increasing demand.
Ranga further revealed that the government of India has made a provision where manufacturers whose vaccines are under clinical development can start producing and stockpiling these vaccines. However, they can be sold only after the regulatory approval. “We have already issued permission to couple of these manufacturers to stockpile the vaccines. So, we can assume that vaccines are being manufactured and are kept in stock. Once the vaccines are approved, they will be rolled out.”
9Cs for the effective transportation of vaccines
Speaking at the same event, Vandana Aggarwal, senior economic advisor in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, put forth 9Cs for the logistics industry for the effective transportation of Covid-19 vaccines - compassion, controlled environment, creativity and innovation, compliance, capacity, collaboration, communication, cooperation and connectivity. “India has a huge responsibility with the vaccines, not just to its humongous population, but also to the rest of the world having served only 150 countries. And now that we have to reach 240 countries; that is the major task left - of establishing cold supply chains to these countries as well,” Aggarwal said. “If India can serve the vaccine to one sixth of humanity, which it does on a yearly basis, then I think, we are well placed to serve it to others in the world.”
Aggarwal re-iterated Ranga’s stand on creating a controlled cold supply chain, which is unfragmented, to make sure that the potency of the vaccine does not get affected. Commending the scientists worldwide for their “backbreaking work” in finding an effective vaccine, Aggarwal said that the logistics industry now needs to show how equally creative and innovative it can get in supplying this vaccine to every part of the world without any breakage in the chains. The innovativeness is also needed for meeting the cost requirements as the economic viability is also a very important component.
“On the regulatory side, we are trying to see as to which are the areas where the logistics-related regulations might come in the way whether it is for disbursement of the vaccine, or in terms of just the multimodal connectivity with the air sector or for the storage or any handling environment,” she informed. The government is also looking at addressing infrastructural bottlenecks – whether that is physical, IT or human infrastructure.
Aggarwal also spoke of providing ample capacity in providing the logistics. This is not restricted to air freight capacity, but also in terms of upgrading terminal capacity, the equipment handling capacity, such as cool dollies and containers, which can withstand the temperature requirements. While the industry needs to collaborate and be unified to provide an uninterrupted vaccine supply chain, Aggarwal stressed upon the need for cooperation and better communication among stakeholders. “If we don't communicate with each other, and we don't make it known as to what is required, we wouldn't be, in some sense, putting together our best foot forward in serving the world at a time, which is unprecedented.
This article was originally published in Indian Transport & Logistics News' November - December 2020 issue.