The UK coronavirus vaccination programme has reported that 32 million people from nine priority groups have now received at least one dose of the vaccine – marking the largest inoculation programme the UK has ever launched. This comes as the NHS urges people who fall into the over-45 age category, to book an appointment to receive their first coronavirus vaccine.
Commencing on 24th April, World Immunisation Week highlights the promotion of vaccines to protect against disease – this year’s theme ‘vaccines bring us closer’ being more apt than ever before following a year of lockdowns, tier-systems, self-isolation and social distancing measures.
The challenge is set to offer 53 million adults in the UK, the chance to be vaccinated by 31st July. The efficient planning of deliveries to vaccination sites will continue to be a key part of that, meaning vaccine logistics services have a pivotal role to play.
The Professor of primary care and public health at the Department of Primary Care & Public Health commented:
And whilst the focus on the distribution of the COVID vaccine is at the forefront, experts warn that we mustn’t let other vaccination programmes slip, in an article published on Vaccine rollout by the World Health Organisation stated:
“there remains a need to ensure routine vaccinations are not missed. Many children have not been vaccinated during the global pandemic, leaving them at risk of serious diseases like measles and polio”.
Logistics providers have, and will continue to play a huge role in supporting the vaccine supply chain – ensuring the UK is able to meet its roll-out targets through maintaining the carefully planned flow of vaccines to centres nationwide.
The Challenge of Vaccine Logistics and Cold Chain Management
Perhaps the biggest challenge of vaccination distribution falls within the vaccine logistics and cold chain management of the product during its storage and distribution, meaning specialist logistics support is a necessity.
The term ‘cold chain’ refers to the cold temperature conditions which must be maintained during transportation to the point of administration, according to the manufacturer’s recommendation – usually ranging from +2˚C to +8˚C. The cold chain requirements of the COVID vaccine have posed an enormous challenge, particularly for countries that do not have the cold chain infrastructure that the UK has in place:
In fact, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson previously warned of the ‘immense logistical challenges’ in distributing the vaccine due to the requirement for refrigerated lorries and freezer storage – a challenge on an enormous scale which has been met by 3PL providers, credited with delivered an ‘unprecedented logistical effort’.
This level of specialist logistics management has been key to maintaining a well-managed operation in vaccine distribution UK wide to 1,500 sites thus far. Ongoing is the challenge to continually improve scheduling of deliveries to vaccination centres and being able to maintain all patient appointments, as distribution targets continue to increase.
Vaccine Logistics Management
Whilst a well-oiled vaccine delivery programme is vital, the supply of medical equipment and key items to vaccination centres, is in equal need of specialist coordination to enable vaccinations to go ahead at all.
Medical courier service providers have an essential role to play in supporting the 3PL sector to meet the specific challenges of delivering medical equipment into vaccination sites. Whilst larger vehicles can sustain deliveries to the UK’s 50 large-scale vaccination centres, which includes Bath Racecourse, a Cathedral and several stadiums, smaller pharmacies and medical centres pose a particular challenge for artic lorries.
Often located in pedestrianised areas and scattered across UK high streets, many vaccination centres are situated in locations hard to reach for large lorries. The van network is vital in reaching these sites with key equipment, supporting logistics providers with making equipment deliveries in the final mile.
A Final Mile Vaccine Courier Service
The Crown SDS fleet has been able to support with scheduled and ad hoc deliveries of medical equipment to pharmacies, medical centres and even gyms, that have been adapted to support the vaccination programme. Sharps bins, medical screens, orthopaedic beds, desks and chairs are all essential in the set-up of new vaccination centres, but other items including antiseptic wipes, swabs and tissues are key to ensuring centres can continue with vaccinations to schedule.
During the course of January alone, Crown SDS covered half a million miles in deliveries of vaccine items, with scheduled drops at nationwide locations and recorded 100% of deliveries on-time. With optimised routing and real-time tracking, Crown SDS are able to support the scheduling required for such a large-scale operation using a nationwide network of vans.
What’s Next For Vaccine Logistics?
It is expected that all UK adults will have been offered a COVID vaccine by the end of July 2021, but maintaining supply during the next phase is key to ensure everyone who needs a second dose, has access to it. It also remains to be seen whether a booster vaccine will be required and if so, how frequently – seasonally, annually?
And whilst vaccinations are set to continue throughout the year and perhaps onwards, the eventual planned closure of vaccination sites is inevitable as the first stage of the programme comes to a close. This marks another surge in requirement for a medical equipment courier with disassembly of sites at gyms and other makeshift centres, as equipment no longer required will need to be removed and re-located.
Crown SDS are able to support with many aspects of vaccine logistics management with its medical courier service – call our specialist team on 0330 333 4400 to discuss your requirements.