The vaccines developed to immunise people against COVID-19 are preventing serious illness and saving lives all around the world. Slowly but surely, life is beginning to return to normal.
Thanks to decisive leadership, Qatar has been ahead of the curve when it comes to battling the pandemic. The country was quick to enforce a partial lockdown and introduce a contact tracing application (Ehteraz). Qatar mandated the use of masks in public places and robustly enforced social distancing. Additionally, the government quickly implemented quarantining and testing for all visitors arriving into Qatar thereby minimizing likelihood of the virus being brought into the country.
The challenge for Qatar now, along with every other country in the world, is to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Vaccinating close to 3 million people is a mighty task, and I am proud to shed light on the vital role of logistics in facilitating the movement of the vaccines seamlessly. Qatar has already administered more than 1 ,000,000 vaccinations, as of 7 April 2021. That means more than 25% of the adult population has received at least one dose. With further support from logistics experts, Qatar will achieve its goal of offering a COVID-19 vaccination to every citizen and resident by the end of 2021 and become one of the fastest countries in the world to vaccinate its population.
Simply transporting the various COVID-19 vaccines presents a multitude of challenges. To begin with, they each need to be stored at different temperatures at different times during the supply chain. Qatar has taken delivery of two vaccines so far: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at -70°C. It can be kept at a temperature between 2°C and 8°C for a period of five days prior to inoculation, but once opened it can only remain at room temperature for just six hours. The Moderna vaccine, on the other hand, must be stored at -20°C. It can be kept at a temperature between 2°C and 8°C for up to 30 days prior to inoculation, it can only remain at room temperature for just twelve hours. Thanks to expertise built up over many years in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry and purpose-built infrastructure, logistics providers are able to transport the vaccines according to these exact requirements in accordance with stringent guidelines and standards.
The moment Qatar receives a batch of vaccines, they are transported to warehouses before being dispatched to health centers. Vaccines are handled with the utmost care, prior to live operations all parts of the local supply chain underwent thorough testing and simulation exercises to ensure robust processes enabling safe transportation and handling.
Another challenge is ensuring that the vaccines arrive in a country at the correct time. Put simply, a country must have systems and processes in place to administer the vaccine long before millions of vials arrive at customs.
As it stands, there are various ways the logistics industry can further support governments around the world. Proven expertise in transporting pharmaceuticals means we are familiar with relevant supply chains, which include barcode technology to track the source of vaccines and smart IT solutions to manage vaccine consumption, inventory levels and the replenishment model. This type of expertise also helps to avoid counterfeiting and vaccine theft – an issue raised recently by INTERPOL.
According to a recent review of rolling out the vaccine, a key learning of governments is to involve logistics expertise much earlier in the design of their distribution model. Embedding logistics as an integral part of any government COVID-19 taskforce is crucial.
We are all acutely aware that fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is a matter of life and death. Effective policy and the deployment of intelligent logistics and distribution solutions are of critical importance in this fight. The sharing of information and collaboration between players in the supply chain is the fastest way to overcoming this global crisis and moving back to a sense of normality.
The logistics industry is proud to be playing a key role in fighting the pandemic and stands ready to support Qatar as it aims to immunise its population as quickly as possible.