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COVID-19 Vaccination: How to Ensure Temperature Monitoring During the Complete Supply Chain

Vaccines must be maintained at required temperatures to maintain their safety and effectiveness. Manufacturers that develop COVID-19 vaccines and provide global distribution through strategic logistics partners and suppliers are responsible for maintaining these conditions throughout the entire vaccine cold chain.



Transport & Storage Requirements for COVID-19 Vaccines


The fight against COVID-19 has presented the world with unprecedented logistics challenges: managing the cold chain manufacturing, transport, handling and storage of billions of vaccines on a global scale. From manufacturing plants, warehouses, and healthcare facilities, to pop-up vaccination centers and pharmacy chains, the vaccine must stay within the prescribed temperature range during the entire journey to ensure efficacy.

During transit, cold chain vaccines require standard temperatures based on the manufacturer’s standard operating procedures, or SOP.

Transporting such huge consignments is a significant factor in the fight against the disease.


Supply chain management starts from the manufacturer’s API warehouse to large warehouse distribution centers or freezer farms. The vaccines travel by air, sea, rail or road depending on the destination. They then move to smaller containers in transport vehicles (such as trucks or vans) for regional and local distribution. In some cases, the vaccine may move to even smaller containers in specially designed medical bags and even be carried to remote locations via courier.


Moderna requires COVID-19 vaccine temperatures under -20ºC in transit and +2ºC - +8ºC moments to administration. In contrast, Pfizer required temperatures as low as -70ºC during transit, which is an enormous logistical challenge.


Regardless, logistics companies must have refrigeration to regulate the temperature at every stage of the vaccine supply chain. The ultra-low temperature monitoring conditions are expensive and difficult to maintain, especially in locations where the infrastructure to maintain these temperatures is challenging. Refrigeration vehicles with such capabilities are in short supply. In addition to large ultra-cold freezers, the supply chain needs smaller freezers to enable localized transportation to vaccination centers.


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Why is Temperature Monitoring During Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccination Crucial?


During transit, cold chain vaccines require standard temperatures based on the manufacturer’s standard operating procedures, or SOP. However, there may be a different (preferred) temperature range specified when administering the vaccine. Closely following these protocols is essential to ensure the vaccine's efficacy.


Any temperature reading recorded outside of the allotted stability budget for the vaccine (either hot or cold) reduces the viability. The top 2 COVID-19 vaccines require the following temperature ranges:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech: the range should be between -80ºC and -60ºC. However, the recommended temperature was -70ºC in the beginning and is now partially lifted to higher temperatures.

  • Moderna: the vaccine is potent at -20ºC, although anything between -25ºC and -15ºC is still viable.

Temperature monitoring is a critical part of the cold chain management of the vaccines, even prior to stocking. SOPs may require observing and recording the temperatures between 2 to 7 days to ensure consistency.


As the vaccines arrive at healthcare facilities, it should be stored at temperatures between +2ºC and +8ºC for a maximum of 5 days. If this temperature range cannot be achieved, it should be kept at room temperature for a maximum of 2 hours. This procedure applies to both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, once the vaccines have been thawed, they cannot be refrozen.



How do Pharmaceutical Companies Ensure the Effectiveness of the Coronavirus Vaccines at Point of Arrival?


Regulating agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration and World Health Organization have partnered with the International Civil Association to ensure effective cold chain management of vaccines worldwide. Airlines such as Swiss Cargo have special cold chain vaccine containers for transportation. They also sought regulatory approvals from the Health and Transportation Department. As the vaccine roll out intensifies, they have systems in check to distribute the vaccines worldwide.


Pharmacies have the option of using the airline’s supply chain facilities or installing their own monitoring equipment.


ELPRO has been trusted for over 30 years by the world’s leading pharma manufacturers to ensure safe and effective vaccines in the cold chain. The company’s hardware and software help keep cold chain vaccines at recommended temperatures and help ensure safe delivery to distribution centers worldwide. Pharmacies, biotechnology laboratories, and healthcare companies use ELPRO technology. COVID-19 vaccine developers, importers, and distributors can use the same pipeline to ensure their supply chain safety and effectiveness.



The Different Types of Vaccines and their Transport Requirements


Two of the most sought after COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) have different transportation requirements. Whereas Pfizer-BioNTech requires an average of -70ºC during transportation, Moderna needs -20ºC throughout the storage period. From the manufacturing laboratory to the regional distributor, the cold chain vaccines should maintain the temperatures to maintain their viability. Prior to the moment of vaccination, you can either thaw the vaccine to a high of +8ºC or keep it at room temperature, with a shelf life of two hours.


LIBERO smart electronic indicators, data loggers and software should be part of the cold chain management of vaccines to track your COVID-19 shipments. Also, the new LIBERO Gx mobile IoT real-time monitoring helps pharmacists analyze the cold chain vaccine temperatures. It also records light intensity, humidity, tilt, and even the location, enabling you to determine the vaccine’s efficacy. It also gives you a proactive head start to correct any damage to vaccine shipments before they are rendered ineffective.






As science gives us the remedy to this global pandemic, the supply chain is equally vital to facilitate its execution. Vaccines need special conditions to maintain their efficiency. Temperature plays a significant role in this, hence the need for specialized freezers to move the vaccines. ELPRO has products that can help distribute these cold chain vaccines and maintain efficiency.


Government agencies and international organizations have set the regulations for transportation and storage of the cold chain vaccines, creating uniform supply chain procedures which they can monitor and appraise. In essence, only COVID-19 vaccines transported and stored well are fit for vaccination.

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