Bill Brooks, vice president of transportation with Capgemini North America, Inc., lays out the multiple challenges involved in manufacturing, storing and delivering millions of doses of the vaccine for COVID-19 in the coming months.
Timing is a major issue, Brooks says. Manufacturers are hoping for a two- to three-day span for making and getting the vaccine to the end user. Speed is critical because the drug will need to be stored at temperatures of around 100 degrees F below zero. But don’t expect the vaccine to be immediately available to everyone who wants it. Plans call for initial production of around 25 million doses. Given that there are 20 million doctors and registered nurses in the nation’s healthcare system, that doesn’t even leave enough for all at-risk categories, such as the sick and elderly, let alone the general population. Full distribution will run well into next year, says Brooks. The
There’s also the question of prioritizing supply by region. Should the vaccine be distributed equally among all 50 states, or should it be targeted first at those parts of the country with the highest number of outbreaks? Brooks says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide guidance on where the vaccine should go and when. But the actual plan for deciding that has yet to be made public.
Brooks is confident that sufficient logistics, transportation and warehousing capacity exists to handle the shipments for national distribution, even though a portion of the vaccine’s supply chain will be sourced internationally. “It’s hard to gear up complete standalone manufacturing in the U.S.,” he says.
Security of shipments, both in transit and in storage, is another major concern, with the National Guard and U.S. marshals possibly being tapped to protect the vaccine from theft and black marketers.
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