With the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in high gear, innovative data technologies are critical to the success of the most ambitious inoculation effort in human history.
There are many challenges involved with trying to vaccinate so many people in such a short amount of time. It hasn’t helped that the leading vaccines require extra cold temperatures in order to remain effective. The “cold chain” is a significant challenge even in the most developed countries in the world. In the US, safe delivery of doses to more remote, rural areas has called for some creative problem solving, and keeping wastage to a minimum has hardly been easy.
This is the “last mile” problem. How do you keep a vaccine secure when it leaves the lab and controlled conditions? Dry ice is the answer Pfizer has offered, and many other companies have turned to it as well. Yet even with insulated shipping boxes lined with dry ice, there are still many uncontrollable variables that lead to premature vaccine warming in transit.
As a result, continuous, trustworthy information on the condition of the vaccines has been crucial.
Data is everything
A Finland-based startup called Logmore has developed a novel approach to collecting and managing supply chain condition data, using “tags” that display QR codes which change over time to reflect the latest information about a package’s temperature, geo-location and exposure to light, shocks and tilts. To assist with the COVID vaccine rollout, the company developed Logmore Dry Ice, which can accurately measure the deep freeze conditions required.
To date, Logmore has secured some 10 million COVID vaccine doses, thanks to partnerships with multinational shipping concerns like Sofrigam and DHL.
Unlike loggers that transmit data using RFID signals and USB connections, QR codes are usable in air freight situations, extremely resilient and will continue to work even if damaged.
Being exempt from specialized scanning equipment and the global availability of smartphones makes this a major breakthrough. It means even in rural and remote areas, people administering the vaccines can have peace of mind that what they are doing is safe and effective.
Logmore’s system can even be set up to alert officials, so that if a package of vaccines has been at room temperature for so long that it’s approaching thresholds, then it can be prioritized for use in time.
Effective decision making
Looking at the big picture, accurate data logging is crucial to the global supply chains for vaccines. An estimated 25% of vaccines reach their destination in degraded states because of shipping issues. It’s critical to understand when the damage is occurring to be able to prevent it.
The information provided by Logmore’s solution can expose problems with pinpoint precision so it’s known exactly what the cause is – so it can be addressed. It may be that containers on a certain side of a ship are more exposed to sunlight and thus degrade faster.
When health officials, clinic administrators, and their subcontractors have a “single source of truth,” guesswork is minimized and efficiency is maximized.
There have been many cases where vaccines have reached their final destination but have not been used in time and needed to be discarded. Logmore’s data can provide the whole picture of a center’s resources and if there is a risk of wastage, it can alert health officials to transport the vaccines to nearby centers if they are at capacity.
This can vastly increase the number of actual doses delivered.
The public debate around vaccines continues to rage, despite – or perhaps because of – the backing of the scientific community. The issue of misinformation permeates across the world, with people who could benefit from the immunity offered to turn down the opportunity because of safety concerns.
At times there is a lack of trust between governments and their citizens. If they do not have the evidence to back up their claims that people will receive properly handled vaccines, then a portion of the population will be skeptical.
By having access to trustworthy data logs that attest to an unbroken cold chain, there is strong independent backing to prove a shipment is safe.
It’s against everyone’s interests for mishandled doses to be administered. Logmore’s data can help guarantee this won’t happen, even in remote areas of the world by empowering healthcare officials with the data they need.
Progress being made
It’s impossible to know how many lives have been protected because of Logmore’s technology but it’s had a key part in the delivery of millions of vaccines worldwide.
In 2018, over half the world’s vaccines were wasted because of a lack of proper cold storage. The hope is the innovation from companies like Logmore can mean in the post-COVID world, vaccines for all diseases can be better managed and more lives saved.