The past couple of weeks have seen plenty of good news in the shape of a potential Covid-19 vaccine, from Pfizer, to Moderna, to Oxford/AstraZeneca. But efficacy updates are only the first hurdle to clear. Production, distribution and rollout – particularly noting the first two and its requirement for cold storage – remain key issues.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) blockchain division has previously explored how distributed ledger technology could be key to an ‘equitable’ Covid-19 vacinne distribution. Now, with the updates from the pharmaceutical companies and researchers, Netta Korin, co-founder of Orbs, has added her thoughts to how blockchain can benefit this ‘global first.’
Blockchain ‘could be the perfect infrastructure for supply chain management platforms’, Korin argues, as its lack of ownership and immutability covers two pre-requisites for building digital trust.
With the importance of temperature control absolutely vital – Pfizer’s vaccine requires -70 Celsius degrees with Moderna at a relatively mild -20 Celsius – distributors would be required to unequivocally prove that all storage conditions had been met. The WEF claims, somewhat boldly, that ensuring storage data is recorded on an immutable database could ‘remove beyond a shadow of doubt that the vaccines are safe and effective.’
This use case can extend to the wider supply chain, albeit as part of a more general value set. Manufacturers can track whether shipments are delivered on time to destinations, hospitals and clinics could better manage their stocks, while individuals could have an identical guarantee for the specific vaccine they receive.
The WEF is not the only organisation looking to this solution. Writing earlier this week Jason Kelley, general manager of blockchain services at IBM, also noted the temperature control issue.
“As this pandemic has unfortunately often made clear, our current supply chains can come under strain, particularly during times of crisis,” Kelley wrote. “To help gain an accurate view of inventory positions and optimise vaccine allocation, stakeholders will need a supply chain that is bolstered by advanced technology like AI to identify early warning signs of disruption from external data, optimise orders based on critical need, and manage inventory reallocation and prioritisation.
“Distributors need to invest in an ‘intelligent supply chain’ capable of offering a near-real-time view into the supply of goods,” added Kelley.
Korin cited her own company, which has worked on supply chain solutions to enable visibility in tracking counterfeit goods, as an example of where the infrastructure is already in place.
“While it is still unclear how long it will take until the vaccines are available for every last one of us, it is most certain that their supply chain must be closely monitored,” Korin added.