With the leading manufacturers announcing early successes in the development of a vaccine against COVID-19, the world began to see a small glimmer of hope at the endof what’s proven to be a long and dark tunnel. Public health experts warn, however, that these vaccines and others that are likely to follow are just the first step. What comes next is distributing vaccines to the world’s populations – including those living in remote geographies. That’s because to remain effective, each vaccine must be kept within a specific temperature profile based on manufacturer guidelines. This includes in storage as well as in transit for distribution.

We’re already learning how this might be a challenge with one vaccine platform requiring shipment and storage at ultra-cold temperatures of -70°C. That will require special freezers and shipping protocols that consider not only packaging and dry ice but also a reliable way to ensure that temperatures have been maintained throughout.

Scientists have been discussing this dilemma ever since it became clear that a vaccine would be the most essential tool for bringing the pandemic under control – not on its own. This scholarly article, Logistical challenges for potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and a call to research institutions, developers and manufacturers,” published in Vaccine journal, and available online, explores solutions for ensuring ‘last mile’ efficacy of these critical COVID-19 vaccines once they become available in shipping to ensure wide distribution and minimize wastage.

Other related articles regarding vaccine storage and distribution can be downloaded from Dr. Kartoglu’s website: http://kartoglu.ch/papers/

Umit H. Kartoglu, MD, DPH is President and CEO Extensio et Progressio in Geneva Switzerland. He has nearly two decades of experience working as a scientist with the World Health Organization as well as a Health Coordinator with UNICEF. He is also author of The Book of VVM: Yesterday, today and tomorrow, which chronicles the evolution of the vaccine vial monitor (VVM).