Quickly delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to people across Europe is a complex undertaking. Having GxP-compliant vehicles available for road transportation is a crucial link in the chain to ensure compliance and the highest level of quality and service. This situation calls for Kuehne+Nagel’s European Pharma Fleet.
COVID-19 vaccines are now being shipped from manufacturing sites around the world, to be administered locally. A successful roll-out depends on a variety of logistics solutions. Thanks to the geography of Europe – with its high population density – and the need to carefully control storage conditions in transit, the distribution of vaccine consignments from filling centres to clinical settings will mostly be conducted by road.
The very specific storage requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine make this a challenge: some vaccines need to be kept at a constant temperature of minus 70 degree Celsius until shortly before the administration. Additionally, clinics and vaccination centres have limited capacity to administer the vaccinations. Therefore, smaller consignments must be delivered in batches. Doses for the follow-up injection must also be delivered at precisely the right times and locations.
Adapting to needs
Having our own European Pharma Fleet, integrated with our own global logistics network as well as those of our industry partners, makes our distribution effective and adaptable as the COVID-19 vaccination programme evolves.
This is essential since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to vaccine distribution. Different manufacturers and governments have come to a variety of arrangements. In one country, for example, initial batches of the ultra-cold vaccine that require dry ice-compatible transportation will go to a large variety of locations. That demands highly co-ordinated local distribution. Other vaccines, that are stable at higher temperatures, will follow a different path.
Furthermore, the race to get risk-group patients and frontline health workers immunised requires rapid distribution to specialist facilities. Later, being able to predictably assign higher capacity deliveries will be valuable as larger groups of people are assigned more stable vaccines.
Speed and precision
For five years, we have been investing in our specialist European Pharma Fleet. We saw that Kuehne+Nagel’s rapidly growing pharma client base needed a combination of factors: reliable transportation, compliance with global standards, capacity and agility.
Today, we have 210 specially designed and fitted trailer units, 90% of which are configured for dual temperature storage. These trailers have been thermally mapped and qualified for multiple pharma-relevant temperature ranges, both positive and negative. This means that they can carry consignments at both minus 20 degrees – cool enough to sustain the dry ice packing for the ultra-cold COVID-19 vaccines – as well as vaccines that just need to be chilled.
To minimise downtime, all our Pharma Fleet trucks have two drivers. All the trailers have special security features; many are equipped with doors operated remotely using GPS co-ordinates. And the fleet is compliant with Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) standards. That means manufacturers and governments have reassurance on physical security – and also better control of information flows and traceability.
There’s one more factor that we know is crucial to the pharma industry in the decade-plus we’ve been serving it: holistic service provision. Our European Pharma Fleet is tightly integrated with our air, sea and warehousing infrastructure. That will be especially valuable in the coming months, as new vaccines are introduced from different manufacturing facilities all over the world.
Time to get moving
The COVID-19 vaccination programme is still defined by uncertainties and the only way the logistics can work around these unknowns is to have properly certified, high-quality capacity that can be assigned to the task at a moment’s notice. Our specialised European Pharma Fleet is already rolling, fully integrated with our global network. And that’s great news for a supply chain that cannot afford any weak links.