Last updated on February 8th, 2022 at 09:52 pm
While many industries have been shut down or reduced due to Covid-19, the vaccine and healthcare technology sector has seen nothing but growth. Vaccine production has undergone major increases and with it have come increases in transportation, supply chain logistics, data capture, and storage.
A huge issue with certain vaccines is that they will typically need to be kept at colder temperatures. This is relevant for most of the synthetic mRNA vaccines, a new type of vaccine designed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vaccine Storage and Data Capture
When implementing a global strategy to distribute vaccines, data gathering, storage, and transmittal, and accurate reporting are critical. According to the World Health Organization, 50% of vaccines are wasted due to failures in supply chain logistics. Vaccine products can go out of date or fail due to inadequate storage conditions. This is especially true in developing countries that can be warm and humid, and lack the infrastructure for refrigeration and IoT technology.
With vaccines, it’s imperative that the temperature is within a certain range (the exact range will depend on the type/brand of vaccine). So it’s also important to have sophisticated data loggers to ensure that any changes immediately trigger an alert.
As noted by Dickson, data loggers and sensors are critical in tracking inventory, and this especially applies to sensitive medical products such as vaccines. It also has important implications for compliance procedures and for real-time reporting. If worse comes to worst and the vaccines are destroyed, an instant replacement order can be fulfilled to save time.
The Moderna vaccine has something of an advantage over other vaccines, such as Pfizer, when it comes to storage. It can survive higher temperatures in comparison, due to the protective lipid nanoparticle around the synthetic mRNA particles. But it still requires close monitoring so it stays within a given range.
Moderna Vaccines Donated to Nigeria
Intelligent use of data capturing and vaccine storage can have many benefits. For instance, Nigeria is the recipient of over 4.2 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. The donation is on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the vaccines are to be administered by Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA)in conjunction with an innovative startup known as Gricd.
Gricd will be playing a key role as an internet-of-things (IoT) cold chain logistics firm, responsible for the transportation and storage of the vaccines. The Moderna vaccine must be frozen at -50°C to -15°C (-58°F to 5°F). They can then be stored in a refrigerator between 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F) for up to 30 days. Once thawed, they cannot be refrozen. The vials can also be kept at room temperature, between 8°C to 25°C (46°F to 77°F), for 24 hours.
The initiative has already been a success, with most of the vaccines being safely delivered to all 36 states. The NPHCDA had access to Gricd’s monitoring dashboard so they had an overview of all the vaccines in real-time, along with key environmental information. This is a major achievement as Nigeria has a challenging economy, including an uneven internet infrastructure.
The higher temperatures in the country are another difficulty that has been surmounted thanks to improved tracking and monitoring. And the goods are transferred at enormous savings. So far, Gricd has transacted with multiple organizations to save nearly $200 million, through successfully monitoring nearly 12 million temperature-sensitive items.
How Data Loggers Function for Vaccine Storage
A data logger is essentially a device that captures data, typically through a sensor, and uploads it to the cloud for real-time processing. For vaccines, the key information to be recorded and monitored include temperature and humidity. This has to be recorded continuously and automatically, and this is where IoT sensors come in. Manual scanning by employees won’t work.
The Moderna vaccines were delivered with a data logger known as Gricd MOTE, a plug-and-play IoT device that records temperature and humidity and temperature for up to 30 days. It allows for GPS tracking and only uses power when sending data. The device can be controlled from anywhere in the world using a smartphone. Alerts trigger emails and SMS notifications.
The cold chain delivery of vaccines also has implications for other industries, particularly the food industry. Food waste in many countries is a major problem. In Nigeria alone, up to 45% of harvested food spoilage is due to a lack of cold storage. But one solution would have to be off-grid cold storage, as most rural areas in such countries still do not have access to the internet.
The Future of Vaccine Distribution
Clearly, there is an issue of unequal distribution when it comes to global vaccine distribution. as pointed out by the Director-General of the World Health Organization. In mid-2021 he reported that of the 832 million vaccine doses administered, 82% went to high or upper-middle-income countries. In contrast, only 0.2% went to their low-income counterparts. In high-income countries alone, 1 in 4 of citizens have been vaccinated, a ratio that declines sharply to 1 in 500 in poorer countries.
The answer to this is largely going to involve technology. As evidenced by the distribution of Moderna vaccines in Nigeria, cold-storage technology with real-time IoT monitoring can help to get essential medical supplies to where they are needed the most. This will be done without the huge 50% waste of vaccines currently observed at present.
It’s also important to act in unison, so vaccines are distributed all over the globe with consistent reporting and analysis methods. Global pandemics won’t be beaten with each country fending for itself. Covid-19 is an international disease that is easily transmitted. If one country remains infected, the rest will follow. The virus needs to be tackled globally with the help of IoT devices, data loggers, and cold chain storage.