The healthcare supply chain is battling a public immunization effort that has attained previously-unimaginable complexities. The transportation of temperature-sensitive and precious vaccines is central to controlling the Coronavirus pandemic.

The cold chain logistics industry is therefore central to this epic challenge.

Beyond the billions of COVID-19 vaccines needed around the world, extremely cold temperatures must carry throughout the distribution process.

According to the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), most cold chain products require storage and transportation at two- to eight-degrees Celsius (36-46F), while frozen products need to be kept below minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 F).

But HDA notes, some of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates are classified as “ultra-cold chain” and need to be held at temperatures below minus 80 degrees Celsius (-112 F).

HDA notes that healthcare system distributors “are the logistics experts of healthcare, ensuring the safe, efficient and reliable delivery of approximately 93 percent of the medicines purchased in the United States. As the backbone of the pharmaceutical supply chain, distributors connect 180,000 providers and pharmacies with 1,400 drug manufacturers nationwide, and through core and value-added services, distributors save the U.S. healthcare system between $33 and $53 billion annually. As the country faces extraordinary demand for medicines and healthcare supplies during COVID-19, distributors are leveraging their strong relationships to support both ends of the supply chain.”

“The private sector must work hand-in-hand with the government on solutions,” Mike Kaufmann, Cardinal Health CEO, a U.S. leader in distributing health care supplies, noted in a November report: “Supply chain disruption” for the healthcare industry is “everywhere and it’s impacting all of us,” Kaufmann said. “Every corner of the supply chain is experiencing unprecedented challenges – from sourcing and capacity constraints at places of origin, to bottlenecks at destination ports, congestion on the rails and the roads – all of which are causing significant delays in critical goods.” Adding, at Cardinal Health, “we are redesigning our processes to meet the moment, but changes to industry processes will have a greater, more immediate impact. We could greatly reduce bottlenecks at some ports by changing the rules on how to return empty containers. These restrictions significantly constrain the efficient use of trucking power and chassis and are a major contributor to both gridlock and reduced trucker capacity. We are working with other industry leaders to create a process that better aligns the operations of ports, rail, trucking and distribution centers.”

He added: “In the face of unprecedented demand, we can’t just wait to build something new. We also need to create partnerships that combine capabilities to solve complicated problems.

“Every industry is facing shipment delays, but we must prioritize releasing backlogged containers with critical medical supplies to ensure our nation’s health and safety. …We need to develop a ‘fast pass’ system that expedites the release of containers carrying medical supplies to port truckers so these products can be picked up first.”

“Real-time visibility is key to responding with agility at every point in the supply…

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