Ensuring Worldwide Protection From Vaccine Preventable Disease

In 2021, Economist Impact, part of The Economist Group, launched The Vaccine Ecosystem in an effort to take the vast learnings from the global COVID vaccination effort and distill them into a series of policy papers aimed at ensuring timely equity for future vaccine roll-outs. The Ecosystem and its diverse stakeholders conceptualized a five-pillar framework that could be leveraged as a blueprint for improved readiness ahead of the next pandemic – or COVID variant.

Pillar 4 of the Ecosystem Framework is focused on distribution, logistics and supply chain management needs surrounding access to vaccines. While much of the need identified in this area has to do with getting vaccines to all corners of the earth without temperature excursions, there are significant other hurdles to be crossed – not all have answers, just ideas.

For example, how does one nation with a surplus of unused vaccines effectively transfer or provide the supply to a country or region in need? According to the findings from The Vaccine Ecosystem, “outdated trade policies, protectionism and human error contribute to delays in moving vaccine products across borders.

“Synchonsation of manufacturing” was also called out as an imperative that touches many stakeholders including private companies. Consider the site that receives vaccines but has no syringes with which to administer the doses. The Ecosystem recommendation is to consider the creation of a neutral agency to help foster information sharing on inventory and timelines without impeding on innovative spirit or competitiveness.

In terms of distribution optimization, it is hard to have a conversation about getting hundreds of millions of shots in arms without talking about environmental impact from CO2 emissions and the sheer amount of landfill waste generated. Much like the answers to nearly all of the logistical challenges posed by global vaccination efforts, the environmentally-friendly path forward is grounded in communication and coordination across stakeholders. Not surprisingly, Ecosystem experts also highlighted the carrot approach – how to incent companies to develop sustainable packaging with a drive towards greater acceptance of circularity.

Yet sustainable pharmaceutical packaging by way of reuse is making tremendous gains. In 2021, AeroSafe Global helped distribute more than 100 million doses of the COVID vaccine along with nearly 5 millions of pounds of dry ice. These critical items were shipped in AeroSafe Global’s durable, reusable shipping containers – 98 percent of these were successfully retrieved and serviced to their original state for another journey.

The COVID vaccination is one of the most significant logistical undertakings of modern time, and with life or death consequences. While future infectious disease will undoubtedly challenge us again, advancing on best practices during moments of relative calm is our collective best bet at being more prepared the next time around.

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