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Table of Contents
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 24-26

Supply chain and logistics for COVID-19 vaccines: Challenges and opportunities

1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Biotechnology, Amity University, Noida, India
3 Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission04-Nov-2021
Date of Decision07-Dec-2021
Date of Acceptance10-Dec-2021
Date of Web Publication24-Jan-2022

Correspondence Address:
Shanay Rab
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, 110025
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/am.am_127_21

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According to the history of vaccine development, no vaccine for infectious disease has ever been developed in a shorter time than COVID-19. With the enabling scientific efforts and governments support, few vaccines for the COVID-19 have been developed across the globe. Using the keywords COVID-19 or coronavirus and vaccine supply chain management, and review of the literature are conducted on the databases of PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar. Study, collected the most up-to-date information on the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain, and then assessed it to find potential challenges and opportunities. Our prior understanding of the structure and function of the coronavirus family has also contributed to the quick development of several vaccination technologies. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of actually getting the vaccinations to people, as well as others that are on the way. In 2021 and beyond, the complicated logistics of controlling the vaccine cold chain, combined with limited government funding to assist distribution, will make mass immunization difficult. We have identified various challenges and opportunities related to the supply chain and logistics for COVID-19 vaccines. The solution to these challenges would play a crucial role to enhance the health quality infrastructure across the world. The present study discusses the various aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain and logistics that make its biggest challenges. The scale and short time required for global vaccination will teach lessons not only to researchers and manufacturers but also to supply chain managers. Scientists, researchers, and diverse sectors have all also benefited from the influx of opportunities.

Keywords: COVID-19, logistics, supply chain, technologies, transportation, vaccine

How to cite this article:
Rab S, Hayat A, Haleem A, Javaid M, Hasija MK. Supply chain and logistics for COVID-19 vaccines: Challenges and opportunities. Apollo Med 2022;19:24-6

How to cite this URL:
Rab S, Hayat A, Haleem A, Javaid M, Hasija MK. Supply chain and logistics for COVID-19 vaccines: Challenges and opportunities. Apollo Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 May 22];19:24-6. Available from: https://www.apollomedicine.org/text.asp?2022/19/1/24/336567

  Introduction Top

Medical experts and pharmaceutical companies worked together to develop a very efficient vaccination for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, in record time. The first instances of COVID-19 were reported in December of this year. Various vaccinations were approved by regulatory agencies throughout the world only a year later. This timeframe surpassed the previous record of 4 years set in the 1960s for the mumps vaccine. Furthermore, the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was the first vaccination to employ synthetic messenger RNA to drive the synthesis of particular proteins within cells, marking a significant advancement in vaccine technology. This rapid development of various vaccine technologies is also due to our previous understanding of the structure and function of the family of coronaviruses.[1],[2] Some vaccines have shown efficacy as high as 95% in reducing COVID-19 infections after Phase III studies. As of September 2021, 22 vaccines are allowed by at least one national regulatory authority for public exercise; however, more than 300 vaccines are in the various development stages.

Several nations have implemented phased logistics and distribution plans for vaccine distribution based on those at high risk of exposure and transmission and those who have the highest risk of complications. The G20 International Forum and the World Health Organization (WHO) established the “Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator” program in April 2020. It is a cross-discipline assistance system that allows partners to pool their resources and knowledge. Vaccines (also called “COVAX”), Diagnostics, Therapeutics, and the Health Systems Connector are the four pillars, each of which is maintained by two to three participating partners. Further, the coalition for epidemic preparedness innovations foundation, the WHO, vaccine producers, governments, and industries assess how the vaccine is distributed globally.

According to official records, from national health organizations, as of September 27, 2021, a total of 6.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccination have been administered globally.[3] Although the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines has generated enormous excitement, health-care systems around the globe are now facing the complex task of maintaining the supply chain of vaccines for their populations. There are several aspects to the COVID-19, a vaccine supply chain that makes its biggest challenges: Scale, traceability, speed, temperature control, safety and security, and the global nature of the effort and distribution. A typical supply chain solution would focus on any one of these issues, but the scientific community needs to tackle these problems altogether. The present paper discussed some of such challenges and opportunities in the distribution chain of COVID-19 vaccines.

  Challenges and Opportunities for Supply Chain and Logistics for COVID-19 Vaccines Top

In nature, the scale of global vaccination requires the unprecedented achievement of some level of viral protection. In the case of India, roughly 900 million people will need to be vaccinated to attain the needed herd immunity level. Another issue with the vaccine is the temperature control of the cold chain with extreme heat and humidity; as in many countries, daytime temperatures reach around 50°C with extensive changes in humidity. It appears to be the world's most incredible logistical difficulty, requiring a convoluted distribution, storage, freezing, and communication system. According to the WHO, 2.8 million vaccine doses were lost owing to cold chain problems in five countries in 2011. It also detailed how, in reaction to new vaccine releases, various countries had to boost their storage capacity by 20%. If supply chains are unable to maintain continuous temperature control, the COVID-19 vaccination programme will have poor results.

All developed and developing vaccines are under the analysis to understand the degradation of their potency quickly at temperatures above 10°C due to the antigen degrades sharply if not frozen. Globally, several different protein antigens are currently being understudied, but even the most resilient ones will require cooling. The essential cold chain requirements with most of the developed vaccines for the COVID-19 requires cooling between 2° and 8°C, while some need a freezing temperature of −80°C, throughout transportation. [Table 1] shows the cold storage limits of some of the developed vaccines.
Table 1: Some of the authorized/approved vaccine candidates with their temperature limit

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Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, as shown in [Table 1], must be maintained frozen and rely on the cold chain to reach anywhere. In such types of vaccines, limited countries only have the resources to implement a robust cold chain infrastructure. Refrigeration is better than freezing in several ways, but for isolated or remote places, room temperature is best, and several researchers are working on thermo-stable COVID-19 vaccines that will not require refrigeration. The first thermo-stable vaccine for smallpox was developed in 1955.[15] It is a vital requirement for a large part of the global population. Indian researchers are using a modified protein fragment that can withstand high temperatures. A group of UK researchers has just begun creating a polymer-stabilized, needle-free solid-dose vaccine.[16]

  Discussion Top

The tracking, storage, and distribution of millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are a massive task that necessitates a variety of IT systems to manage and maintain a fluid vaccine supply chain. As health-care practitioners deal with the extraordinary quick manufacturing, distribution, and administration of COVID-19 vaccinations, they are resorting to technologies such as radiofrequency identification tags and two-dimensional barcodes to assist prevent errors and track vaccines. Furthermore, all current types of the vaccine require two doses separated by at least 3 weeks. Thus, end-to-end inventory management is critical work. Providers must be able to determine how many doses are available and follow vaccine efficacy and potential patient side effects after vaccination. In addition, 9% of the world's population lives in the 29 poorest countries, which got only 1.8% of people all vaccines administered by September 2021.[3] The COVID-19 vaccine may not be compatible with normal vaccine distribution channels in some circumstances, necessitating the development of a new medical infrastructure to improve the supply chain. This may be considered an opportunity to enhance digitalization and improve the medical supply chain in developing and poor countries worldwide. Various solutions include software such as warehouse management systems for case that offers optimum visibility and maintain warehouse reliability, among several other functions. Furthermore, third-party logistics companies are helping to bridge the gap by allowing customers to select one or more suppliers at the national or regional level. Vaccines are commonly distributed to different sectors of the population in most nations.

  Conclusion and Way Forward Top

The most pressing issue raised in regard to vaccination capacity has been the lack of materials. The industry needs to understand the whole picture of demand, with crucial inventory accessible to all stakeholders. With this comprehensive perspective, it should be easier to comprehend how supply chain issues cause shortages and how to prioritize certain drugs and organizational resources. Beyond vaccine safety, effectiveness, and procurement, the world must be prepared to address vaccine supply chain issues. The COVID-19 vaccine, on the other hand, has opened up a magnitude of opportunities for scientists, researchers, and various industries. The scale and short time required for global vaccination will teach lessons not only to researchers and manufacturers but also to supply chain managers. Thus, dealing with COVID-19 based global health, social, and economic issues necessitated the supply chain to be resilient, adaptive, and flexible with a high level of IT integration. Overall, effective vaccination distribution would necessitate unprecedented global effort and coordination, including public-private partnerships between logistical companies, governments, and nongovernmental organizations.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Rab S, Afjal, Javaid M, Haleem A, Vaishya R. An update on the global vaccine development for coronavirus. Diabetes Metab Syndr 2020;14:2053-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
COVID-19 Vaccine. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_vaccine. [Last accessed on 2021 May 25].  Back to cited text no. 2
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations – Statistics and Research. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations. [Last accessed on 2021 Aug 01].  Back to cited text no. 3
AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine (AZD1222)”. AstraZeneca. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip/meetings/downloads/slides-2021-01/02-COVID-Villafana.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 May 27].  Back to cited text no. 4
AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine (Product Monograph). AstraZeneca; February 26, 2021. p. 244627. https://covid vaccine.canada.ca/info/pdf/astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine-pm-en.pdf [Last accessed on 2021 May 27].  Back to cited text no. 5
Voysey M, Clemens SA, Madhi SA, Weckx LY, Folegatti PM, Aley PK, et al. Safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222) against SARS-CoV-2: An interim analysis of four randomised controlled trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK. Lancet 2021;397:99-111.  Back to cited text no. 6
Thanh Le T, Andreadakis Z, Kumar A, Gómez Román R, Tollefsen S, Saville M, et al. The COVID-19 vaccine development landscape. Nat Rev Drug Discov 2020;19:305-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Vaccination Storage & Dry Ice Safety Handling. Pfizer-BioNTech. Available from: https://www.cvdvaccine-us.com/product-storage-and-dry-ice. [Last accessed on 2021 May 28].  Back to cited text no. 8
Rinat S, Ivanova P. Russia Focuses on Freeze-dried Vaccine Doses as Transport Fix. Reuters; November 17, 2020. Available from: https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-russia-vaccine-transp-idUSL1N2I30ML. [Last accessed on 2021 May 28].  Back to cited text no. 9
Sputnik V Vaccine Authorised in India. Available from: https://sputnikvaccine.com/newsroom/pressreleases/sputnik-v-authorized-for-use-in-india/. [Last accessed on 2021 May 28].  Back to cited text no. 10
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Vaccination Storage & Dry Ice Safety Handling. Available from: https://www.cvdvaccine-us.com/product-storage-and-dry-ice. [Last accessed on 2021 May 28].  Back to cited text no. 11
Johnson & Johnson Announces Single-Shot Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Met Primary Endpoints in Interim Analysis of its Phase 3 ENSEMBLE Trial. Available from: https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-covid-19-vaccine-authorized-by-u-s-fda-for-emergency-usefirst-single-shot-vaccine-in-fight-against-global-pandemic. [Last accessed on 2021 May 28].  Back to cited text no. 12
Corum J, Zimmer C. How the Sinovac Vaccine Works. The New York Times. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/health/sinovac-covid-19-vaccine.html. [Last accessed on 2021 May 29].  Back to cited text no. 13
Covishield and Covaxin: What We Know about India's COVID-19 vaccines. BBC. Available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-55748124. [Last accessed on 2021 May 29].  Back to cited text no. 14
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[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Cold Supply Chain Challenge a Big Hurdle for Equitable COVID-19 Vaccination. Available from: https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/cold-supply-chain-can-t-reach-all-they-must-for-equitable-vaccination-121010600319_1.html. [Last accessed on 2021 May 30].  Back to cited text no. 16


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