Over the last few weeks, multiple companies from different geographies have announced the COVID-19 vaccine with a claim of more than 90% efficacy of the same. The list comprises Russia’s Sputnik V along with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna with Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The University of Oxford reported on its vaccine AZD1222 with Swedish-British Company AstraZeneca, saying that while the efficacy was 90 % when the first shot administered was half a dose. However, the efficacy level dropped to 62% when two full doses were administered. So, it is still under testing.
However, we already have two vaccines that have displayed impressive results through the clinical trial phases, according to the respective creators. What follows is distributing the vaccine to everyone around the world, which is a big challenge, even bigger than the vaccine development, according to experts. For the execution of this magnanimous task, the experts are relying on blockchain technology, an idea that has been promoted by the World Economic Forum as well.
The Challenge Ahead with Vaccine Distribution
When it comes to the distribution of vaccines the condition in which it will have to be stored and transported and to maintain them throughout the transit period is the most critical task. For the COVID vaccines, so far the ones that have been confirmed by Pfizer and Moderna have separate storage conditions. Moderna’s vaccine needs to be stored (long-term) at a minus 20 Celsius degrees temperature. For temporary storage for up to one month, a regular refrigerator providing temperatures of 2 to 8 Celsius degrees will suffice.
On the other hand, Pfizer’s vaccine needs a much colder storage temperature of minus 70 Celsius degrees and can be stored in a regular refrigerator for just 5 days. These temperatures need to be maintained accurately to keep the efficacy of the vaccine at the top level. Any alteration in the storage temperature can prove to be fatal. So while distributing the vaccine, the crucial areas will be, to ensure that the:
- The efficiency of the vaccine is not compromised due to faulty storage
- Monitoring and verification process of the storage is done with utmost priority
Both of the above can be assured and managed with the help of a blockchain-powered global vaccine supply chain.
Blockchain-Powered Reliable Vaccine Supply Chain
By the virtue of its inherent qualities, blockchain enables multiple participants within a supply chain network to share and manage a decentralized and distributed database. These participants can develop and share a source of truth with transparency, which can be mutually agreed upon by striking a consensus. Owing to such innate qualities of transparency, traceability, and immutability, blockchain is deemed as the most preferable technology to facilitate the operations of supply chain management, since it enhances trust by upholding the two most essential pre-requisites:
- Rather than being owned by an entity, blockchain offers a standardized protocol of all network participants joining the supply chain and sharing relevant verifiable data among each other.
- Blockchain upholds the immutability of all data on the network, which ensures that any existing information can neither be deleted nor tampered with. It can, however, be appended to maintain a superior level of accountability on part of every participant.
- Blockchain offers the advantage of seamless management of permission related to read and write access.
Combining all of the above-mentioned attributes, a platform can be created that will offer full traceability of every item in real-time, along with the other required data, making the entire process reliable, fast, and highly efficient.
Over the years, blockchain has been incorporated with multiple supply chain networks, and it has shown exemplary results in addressing and solving some of the tough long-standing challenges of supply chain management. It ensures accountability, goods tracking accuracy, prevention of counterfeits while eliminating the usual complications in stock management.
When integrated with the vaccine supply chain, blockchain will be able to maintain the immutability of the data concerning storage conditions. Considering the utmost importance of the vaccine’s storage temperature, the distributors will need to ensure that the storage conditions are met with precedence. Besides that, they will also have to prove the same. If the data concerning the storage conditions are recorded on an immutable ledger that would be a proof string enough to attest to the distributors’ reliability.
As each vial of the vaccine gets monitored through the blockchain supply chain network, each link of the blockchain will be able to track the process of distribution. The health departments will be able to keep a track of the chain and intervene, if needed, to ensure the following:
- Tracking of shipments by the manufacturers and ensure that delivery is on time
- Distributors providing an efficient delivery tracker that includes details such as, storage requirements, consignment verifications, and the provision of sending notification in case anything goes wrong
- Better management of stocks and mitigation of supply and demand issues by hospitals and clinics.
- Ensuring the authenticity of the vaccine does and whether it has been stored under favorable conditions
These efforts will help streamline the vaccine distribution across geographies saving both time, money, and lives.
On a concluding note, the obstacle that needs overcoming to set the distribution in motion is hardly technical. Multiple blockchain development companies have piloted DLT platforms for supply chain management. The difficulty lies in developing and enlisting the multiple players who will take an active part in the process. Hence the political and geographical hurdle will be more difficult to overcome than developing a platform and putting the distribution plan in motion. While it is unclear as to how long it is going to take for the vaccines to be available for administration to every living person on the planet, it is pf precedence that the supply chain of the same is monitored and tracked.