For the average person, the idea of shipping something at a subzero temperature seems daunting. However, for cold chain logistics professionals, this is normal. Most vaccines are shipped at a refrigerated temperature, but the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine have more specific needs. The Moderna vaccine must be shipped at a temperature of -20°C, and the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at -70°C.
With such specific temperatures, how does the cold chain process work for vaccines?
Cold chain is a catchall term for any infrastructure that is used to transport temperature-sensitive products. Various cold chain logistics can include temperature monitoring technology, ice boxes, and even dry ice. Cold chain vaccine shipping isn’t new, and it has been a logistical issue for low resource countries for decades.
This logistical project starts well before the vaccines ever get on the road. The first step in the cold chain process is always storage at the parent facility before the product is shipped out. For most temperature-controlled products, this looks like a freezer with temperature monitoring technology. This can also look like an ice chest filled with dry ice or iceboxes in a pinch.
The shipping process relies heavily on tracking and tracing. Most companies, including Pfizer, track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment using GPS-enabled sensors that upload data to towers. These towers monitor the product 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This process allows the company to ensure quality and intervene if there is a potential problem.
Finally, when the product arrives at its location, it must be stored properly there as well. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be stored at refrigerated temperatures for several days once thawed, so the cold chain logistics process is infinitely easier once the vaccine is in the process of being distributed.
Culture logistics have been around since the 1970s, but for most people it’s an enigma as to how it works. Cold chain experts work diligently to provide unique and effective solutions to ensure temperature sensitive products arrive at the destination in proper condition.