Cold chain vaccine transport is a hot topic which is not just dominating industry conversation but also becoming a regular feature across mainstream media outlets.
This is no surprise. Worldwide COVID-19 vaccine rollouts coupled with the complexities of transporting pharmaceutical products mean that industry experts are focused on minimizing losses of these disease-preventing drugs.
One of the principal sources of risk to vaccines during transport is the temperatures to which they are exposed. In fact, up to 30% of pharmaceutical losses can be attributed to exposure to conditions outside of the recommended ranges.
All of this means that good practices in cold chain vaccine transport play a crucial role in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.
The Consequences of Vaccine Transport Temperature
Vaccines, like many pharmaceutical products, are very sensitive to even slight shifts in temperature, and will undergo a myriad of chemical and physical changes when exposed to conditions outside of the recommended ranges.
These changes will irreversibly impact the integrity of the vaccine reducing its effectiveness, potency and ultimately the protection to the patient
The risk is so significant that studies show that up to 35% of doses have decreased efficacy as a result of substandard handling during vaccine shipping.
Beyond the obvious health implications of failing to control preventable diseases, there are a variety of other important consequences of improper vaccine shipping. This can include the economical and environmental costs associated with wasted vaccines. In the cases when revaccination is necessary following the administration of a suboptimal dose there is a risk of loss of faith from the patient.
These challenges mean that a well regulated vaccine cold chain is essential to prevent exposure to elevated temperatures and fluctuations.
The Risk of a Broken Vaccine Cold Chain
Given the scale, importance and sensitive nature of the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts it is no surprise to hear that temperature-controlled shipping conditions are standard practice.
However, refrigerated conditions do not completely eliminate the risk of exposure to elevated temperatures during cold chain vaccine transport.
Many supply chain experts identify transloading as when the vaccine cold chain is most likely to be broken and the risk of cargo damage is increased.
There are many factors that increase the risk of damages associated with extreme high or low temperatures. The most common is the exposure to the elements, in which direct sunlight or icy winds can quickly impact the chemical or physical integrity of cargo in just a short space of time.
The heat emitted from the asphalt loading docks and runways can also cause irreversible cargo damage. Often the tarmac temperature is significantly greater than that of surrounding air, which leads to heat transfer to the cargo via conduction.
Throughout the COVID-19 there have been numerous cases of cargo losses due to poor vaccine cold chain practices, including this report in which an entire consignment was spoiled within just a couple of hours.
The Importance of Thermal Packaging in Vaccine Transport
The inherent risk during the vaccine cold chain means that high-caliber thermal packaging materials are essential to reduce cargo losses.
Thermal pallet covers, such as the Temcoat Cover, combine highly-reflective materials with the latest insulative design enhancements to ensure goods aren’t exposed to extreme temperatures and fluctuations at any stage of vaccine transport.