Philippines’ Cold Storage Monitoring Preparation for Nationwide Vaccine Distribution
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed every nation’s vulnerable health sector. The health systems for developing countries are currently struggling. The rise in the number of casualties is the effect of lacking health system capacities. With this knowledge and arrival of the vaccines, we Filipinos are now being subjected to participate in the government’s covid immunization campaign. But with the vaccines, they offer under a Chinese brand, we of course can’t help but question the reliability of not just the vaccines but as well as the process of handling them. Is the facility here able to handle these vaccines? Are the facilities equipped with proper cold storage monitoring solutions?
The Philippines is one of the Southeast Asian nations grappling with lessening casualties. The country has more than 576,000 COVID cases as of date. A recorded 12,300+ deaths seem not to find plausible prevention. Such is the struggle for the Philippines, making it the second-highest COVID death hotspot in the region.
The Philippine government is aiming to vaccinate 50 – 70 million Filipinos in 2021. The number is per the scientists’ recommendation of vaccinating 60% of the population. Through this number, the country can achieve herd immunity. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout started on March 1, 2021. This is after 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines arrived last February 28. Sinovac was approved for emergency use.
Furthermore, there are now 117,000 Pfizer vaccine doses and 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca. This will supplement the first vaccine rollout. Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are approved for emergency use as well.
The Philippines also expects at least 5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. This will be granted through the COVAX facility. These volumes are expected to arrive by the first quarter of the year. The first phase of the rollout will cover 1.7 million health and government frontliners. By the second quarter, the government expects a more considerable volume to arrive. About 10-15 million vaccine supply from COVAX will inoculate the vulnerable sectors. This sector also covers the economic frontliners to ease the financial woes of the country. The Philippine economy struggled as its economy contract to 9.5% last year. This is the effect of lockdown in the nation’s economy.
The Philippine vaccine rollout is also at a disadvantage as an archipelagic country. The logistics between islands pose a difficulty. With the government looks to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos, the distribution is a challenge. We look at local cold storage facilities to handle such a significant volume.
Philippine COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan
There are ongoing negotiations by the PH government with 18 logistics companies currently. This is to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines will be stored and transported. According to the Department of Health, the existing cold storage of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) can be a potential facility for the first phase of the rollout. Cold storage from private pharmaceutical firms like Zuellig and Unilab can supplement RITM.
According to data, Zuellig alone can handle 600 million vaccine doses for storage. The vaccine should be within the range of 2-8 degrees Celsius. Unilab is also capable of storing five million doses with the same temperature range.
With RITM as the central hub, it will take charge of keeping vaccines with a 2-to-8-degree Celsius temperature need. It can also cover vaccines with lower temperatures need up to -20 degrees Celsius. Coming from the central hub, the rollout of the vaccine to regional warehouses. Those with extra-low temperature requirements can be stored at private vaccine hubs. These are vaccines with a temperature storage range of -70 to -80 degrees Celsius. To help the private hub, a private distributor will distribute to health facilities. With the 70 million vaccination goal, the government aims to import 150 million doses. The volume will come from 7 vaccine manufacturers.
Cold Storage Needs and Guidelines
While there may seem to have a solution to the storage woes, it is always best to cover all bases. There are certain developments to prime these cold storages. These innovations can help yield optimal output. Added to that, the next ordeal for the PH government is to hurdle the logistical intervention. There are specific guidelines in cold storage operations that need careful planning.
Characteristics of a Distribution System
It is the goal of every cold storage to operate in the best condition. A well-run distribution system results in cost-effectiveness. There are specific requirements for cold storage monitoring to ensure that the most remarkable capacity is achieved.
Some of these monitoring checkpoints include:
- good condition of vaccines and equipment
- cut spoilage and expiration
- monitoring of accurate inventory records
- efficient storage location
- efficient transport and logistic operation
- safe disposal of waste
- remove any incidence of theft and fraud
- performance cold storage monitoring and distribution system
- forecasting of vaccine supplies
Employing cold storage monitoring conditions to these can cut error and vaccine wastage.
Distribution System Design
The vaccine rollout’s main aim is to achieve the shortest possible timeline to get the vaccine to the recipient’s hands. With that in mind, the lesser the number of touchpoints, the more ideal it is. In principle, the vaccine distribution system should have three to four distribution levels. There are three actors in a three-level system. These are the primary store or the central hub. The vaccine will then flow to intermediate stores. In the Philippine scenario, these will be the regional warehouses. The intermediate stores will then distribute to service points. They are also referred to as accredited health facilities. The incorporation of the fourth level will ensure that vaccines reach the recipient. This is helpful if there is a longer travel timeframe. It is also beneficial for last-mile health facilities. The four-level system can be an achievable vaccine roll-out picture in the Philippines.
The vaccine distribution is very independent of the location of storage hubs. It is dependent on distance to health facilities. For longer distances, the intermediate stores should have a convenient location. This will ease the transfer from the primary storage to the health facilities. The distance between storage locations influences the complexity of the distribution. Each storage point can determine the analysis of vaccine supply. Vaccine rollout will need prime cold storage monitoring essentials for further health hubs.
Vaccine Storage Requirements
- Vaccine type
- What is the refrigeration rule for this type of vaccine?
- What are the environmental parameters necessary to ensure quality?
- Vaccine storage
- What are the recommended temperature requirements?
- What is the capacity to store the most significant volume?
- Vaccine management
- What are the inventory requirements?
- What are the supply and reserve stocking projections?
In assessing the pre-requisites, proper usage planning will follow. Considering that various vaccines are for storing, a good account of these storage requirements is crucial. These are guidelines to assess the cold storage monitoring capacities of your whole cold storage operation as well.
Selecting the Proper Refrigeration Equipment
Medical-grade refrigerators and freezers are part and parcel of a cold storage ecosystem. Certain refrigeration technologies are specific for the use vaccine’s temperature need. There are two information that one should check in refrigerator selection: (1) product information sheet and; (2) equipment performance specifications.
This information can give an excellent description of the operational reliability of the equipment. If efficiency is a primary consideration, the information sheets provide space requirements for the freezers also.
Almost always, we put a premium to cost. Ultra-low refrigerators are hefty investments. Accounting of purchase and installation costs is advisable. One should also account for miscellaneous expenses such as running and replacement costs.
The Role of a Country’s Infrastructure and Logistics
Developing countries will always be at a disadvantage in access to prime commodities. In this case, the COVID-19 vaccine. Because of lesser infrastructure capacities, factors such as reliable power and road networks are of utmost importance. These are factors that will have a significant effect on vaccine quality. Moreover, there are also some dependencies in planning a vaccine rollout.
This is much true in the Philippine setting. Expediting road networks and logistics capacities may need long-term investment. But the fight to beat COVID-19 is of priority at the moment. No amount of highways or power outages can deter developing nations from having the vaccines reach their citizenry. The Philippines, for one, is still rolling out the vaccine despite the delays. As of date, there are almost 30,000 Filipino medical frontliners vaccinated.
AKCP’s Cold Storage Monitoring Solution
However, with the ongoing drive to distribute these vaccines, certain technologies can supplement the storage and distribution process. Consequently, these tools can also streamline the rollout flow despite the pressing lack of established infrastructures.
It is part of regulatory requirements that vaccine monitoring should be done. As such, it is a good practice to enhance the monitoring features of your cold storage. The AKCP monitoring solution is a system of sensors and UI that offer real-time monitoring of vaccines’ cold storages. Covers over from storage hubs to service centers. This monitoring tool can give granular visibility to the cold chain. Through the use of wireless sensors, the Pharma Mon server can track vaccines down to individual vials. The system also includes monitoring all environmental parameters, most especially temperature conditions. The reports provide comprehensive monitoring documentation to limit temperature excursions. The IoT monitoring platform limits vaccine wastage and loss.
These are some of the monitoring solutions that can help compensate for the inadequate infrastructure. Developing countries can rely on these to enhance their cold chain systems. With an improved monitoring solution, vaccine transport maintains the best condition even with extended travel periods in the process. In the end, significant efforts in looking for long-term solutions can bring us all immediate results. Faster distribution means faster immunization.