A successfully managed vaccine logistics programme will be essential to ensure UK vaccination targets are met.
As the UK continues its efforts to offer ongoing mass immunisation against COVID-19, vaccine logistics and the efficient planning of deliveries into vaccination sites will remain pivotal.
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.
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”.
The Challenge of Vaccine Distribution 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 logistics support from a cold chain specialist 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 specialist 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 its 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.
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 one month alone, Crown SDS covered half a million miles in deliveries of vaccine items, with scheduled drops at nationwide locations and a 100% record of deliveries on-time with its same-day service.
Vaccine Courier Service in the Final Mile
As a medical courier service, at Crown SDS we have an essential role to play in supporting the 3PL sector to meet the specific challenges of delivering medical equipment and supplies 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. And there are also the additional challenges and protocols surrounding deliveries into vaccine centres located within prisons, MOD sites and nursing homes.
Our van network is vital in reaching these sites with key equipment, supporting logistics providers with making equipment deliveries to sites.
Able to use a van network to handle smaller consignments, we were able to support our 3PL customers with final mile deliveries into medical centres, pharmacies and other sites that posed a challenges for their larger vehicles. With optimised routing and real-time tracking, we delivered efficient scheduling required for such a large-scale operation, with a seamless service.
There’s also the aspect of rebalancing stocks of the vaccine in between vaccination centres, where one site requires additional stock that is located at another site. Crown SDS can offer efficient collection and delivery of consumable materials with specified time collection and rapid same-day delivery.
What's Next For Vaccine Logistics?
To date, over 90% of those eligible to receive a vaccine have received their first dose (UK government statistics). But it remains to be seen whether the booster (of which has been administered to over 35 million people across the UK), will be offered at regular intervals.
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 medical couriers 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 UK vaccine distribution and logistics management with its medical courier service – call our specialist team on 0330 333 4400 to discuss your requirements.