Cold Chain Takes a Shot

The freight industry is tasked with transporting an average of 271 million ultracold and cold COVID-19 vaccine doses per month. At least 857 temperature-controlled trucks will leave Pfizer and Moderna manufacturing facilities or distribution centers each month, says an ABI Research report, and delivery will get more complicated after large urban and suburban areas are covered.

Some vaccines require temperatures as low as -94 degrees, and constant temperature control is needed from the manufacturer to inoculation sites. However, the containers needed to store and transport them aren’t widely available, ABI Research says. People will require two vaccines from the same manufacturer within 21 to 28 days, which equates to at least 662 million doses in the United States and approximately 1.5 billion across the European Union, the report says.


Much of the focus has been on fulfillment centers and modal capacity for air. Another concern is tracking temperatures and providing alerts for out-of-spec loads. This involves integrated software, sufficient sensor capabilities, and the cooperation of both public and private entities across multiple transport modes, and even between competitors.

“The scale of technology, strategy, and operations excellence needed will require transparency, flexibility, and scale never seen, and will take herculean efforts beyond the actual vaccine development and approval,” says Susan Beardslee, analyst at ABI Research.

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