Covid-19 Vaccines Proper Handling
One country cannot exist alone among the global community. With mass traveling comes the risk of contamination from other countries. This as been illustrated by the current Covid-19 pandemic. Vaccines save lives and ensure a healthy population. Proper Handling of COVID-19 Vaccines is critical. But with the weaknesses of covid-19 vaccines is their vulnerability to temperatures and requirement to be kept ultra cold. Transporting them and maintaing temperature is a daunting challenge.
More than 80% of children worldwide receive a complete routine of life-saving vaccines during their first year of life. There is a challenge in reaching the final 20% of children without access to these life-saving vaccines. Using new technology to improve the cold chain process can help reach these vulnerable people. If routine, established vaccine campaigns have difficulties reaching 100% of the world population, the additional challenges posed by a COVID-19 vaccine make it improbable that 100% world vaccination can be achieved.
Vaccines are thermo-sensitive biological products that have a fixed shelf-life. It can lose its effectiveness if not stored safely. The loss is irreversible. Its integrity is compromised when covid-19 vaccines’ proper handling is not followed. Typical vaccines must remain between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (35.6- 46.4°F). However, COVID-19 vaccines based on mRNA technology require -70°C (-94°F). This is throughout the entire cold chain system during its delivery. Covid-19 Vaccines Proper Handling practices updated and practiced by all personnel involved.
Another poor practice that exacerbates cold chain maintenance is using the vaccine refrigerators for personal food or beverage items. There is a common misconception that as long as vaccines are kept in cold storage their effectiveness is not compromised. One reason is health center staff are not trained, some setting vaccine storage temperatures at lower than optimal settings.
The temperature monitoring is recorded twice a day by the health workers. These forms are often not completed. Sometimes, false/incorrect readings are recorded at the end of the week or before a supervisor’s visit.
Monitoring and maintaining the viability of vaccines is critical for several reasons:
2. Resource management: Vaccines are expensive. They are often in short supply in rural communities with rudimentary transportation modes.
3. Lost opportunities: Loss of vaccines may result in lost opportunities to immunize. Especially in hard-to-reach areas and resource-poor areas.
4. Confidence in public health: Re-vaccination to already vaccinated patients. It hurts the public confidence in the health system.
Completing the delivery to achieve a successful immunization campaign. It requires an understanding of the unique challenges. That of distributing to health centers in hard-to-reach places, with little available transport, limited telecommunications infrastructure, and unreliable electricity supply.
The evaluation of the immunization’s success is based on the degree to which the vaccines can reach the people who need them. A strong end-to-end supply cold chain adapts to the inadequate resources of these communities.
To ensure that delivery is complete:
- From producing the vaccine to the point of immunization.
- Addresses the challenges at the last mile for distribution.
- Presents examples of innovative solutions to address those challenges.
Challenges in the cold chain process
Underdeveloped infrastructure in low-resource areas results in an unreliable power supply. This leads to an ineffective cold chain with greater dependency on human supervision. The regulation results in inadequate and ineffective approaches to resolving cold chain problems.
Investment in the cold chain has fallen behind when compared with investments in vaccine development. WHO estimates that about $200 million US dollars are needed per year to meet up the cold chain needs in developing countries.
An example, the field coordinators who are responsible for the distribution of vaccines. They trained to provide basic maintenance of the equipment during distribution visits. This approach expands the capacity of the system to maintain the cold chain. The field coordinators are the extension of the one technician in each province and can be an extra set of eyes to monitor the cold chain. This method is unique from the traditional system of vaccine deliveries. By having a shared responsibility for data collection. Cold chain maintenance at the last mile rather than at the district and national levels.
Failures in the cold chain are inevitable. Even with preventive maintenance equipment breaks down, batteries will lose their charge. The staff informs the district health supervisors and field coordinators immediately. The vaccines are transferred to an alternative district store. Or a nearby health center to avoid contamination. The field coordinators conduct corrective maintenance. Corrective maintenance includes changing a fuse or replacing a battery for solar refrigerators as an example.
The Cold Chain
The cold chain consists of all the people and logistic providers. Processes involved in the manufacturing, storing, and delivering life science products. It starts with the pharmaceuticals producing the products to the procedures in preserving. And storing capabilities and delivery methods. It is imperative to know the strengths and weaknesses of the cold chain processes.
A well-coordinated cold chain help reduces costs and provides a better monitoring system to safeguard the efficacy of the vaccines. The latest technologies, the monitoring of the cold chain show in real-time. Allowing a more proactive intervention to keep the vaccines from spoiling.
It only takes one part of the cold chain to break down to delay the products’ delivery. The length of the delay, the more chances the vaccines destroyed due to temperature excursions.
How to improve the Cold Chain Process
- Managing Your Supply Cold Chain
The different parts of a supply cold chain fall under different handlers. and might come under the control of many departments. This can cause problems if the storage and shipping managers don’t work together. The best thing to do is to assign one person to manage the cold chain process. This person coordinates with the different managers. Keeps them in constant communication with each other. That person will be able to spot potential problems before they arise and prevent delays.
A key component of managing a cold chain is to have redundant parts or a back-up plan. For example, if a delivery route impassable, other alternative routes utilized. Setting benchmarks for each component in the cold chain. This helps spot potential problems early enough to address them.
Proactive production planning works if all the staff responsible gives their input. On other options in case, a problem arises and all the kinks ironed out. It helps reduce stress, lower costs, improve supply distribution, and increase profits.
- Perform Demand Forecasting
The first step in working out the cold chain process is to estimate the demand for medical products. Do this by examining production history and the delivery for the past year or two. To determine if the demand has peaks and downtimes during the coming year. Discuss with the Health ministries and the WHO the essential vaccines needed. And where to distribute them.
- Analyze the Cold Chain process
Review the length of the delivery to its destination. The storage capacity of the medical products. This will help prevent delays that will occur if one of the cold chain links causes problems. For example, the pharma company produces flu vaccines before a seasonal rush to ensure proper handling of covid-19 vaccine and the ability to ship products to make room for new inventory.
- Plan the First Draft
Based on the demand forecasts, create the first draft of the production schedule. Look for potential delays, rush periods, or slow periods the providers will smooth out. For example, if the WHO states what vaccines are needed in a particular country during the year. It is important to take into consideration the season of that country. If it is a wet period, the roads inaccessible due to floods. If the frequency of severe storms is intensifying.
- Review Your Labor Needs
Using the first draft of your production schedule, check the labor needs. Look for ways to reduce the use of overtime. Remove more-expensive contract employees by attempting to cut busy periods.
- Stick to the Final Plan
Once everything is in place for the cold chain process of product delivery needs. Pre-order production options, cash flow situation, and labor needs. Follow the final production schedule. Address every aspect of the logistics and supply chain. Starting with signed contracts, materials orders, labor scheduling, production, storage, shipping, and billing.
If a budget problem. Review common expense areas and financial practices before cutting costs.
The obstacles in the vaccine distribution systems emphasize the need for innovative methods about the covid-19 vaccine’s proper handling. Current information on cold chain uptime is essential to ensuring vaccine viability. But little information is available on the ways. Which developing countries’ governments and NGOs are recording continuous cold chain uptime.
More studies needed to complement the evidence. A better insight into the cost-effectiveness of investing in covid-19 vaccines proper handling. Extensive studies track both time and temperature excursions of the cold chain. It provides the best source of information for such purposes.
If cost-effective solutions followed. This information and knowledge must share and disseminated. Within the global health vaccine community. Issues about data quality and equipment uptime avoided. By investing, testing, and using new cost-effective technologies. Providing non-stop temperature monitoring and recording.