This includes storing of the future serums at extreme low temperatures, if required. The industry’s notification is a reaction to a study presented by BioNTech and partner Pfizer last Monday, announcing a breakthrough in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In different reports, Gordon Dugan, Professor at Cambridge University, is quoted by Russian media as saying that once the COVID-19 serums are available and produced on a mass scale, they need to be stored at -70°C. This is clearly a precautionary measure, he argues, to safeguard the stability of the vaccines and prevent them from getting spoiled. Otherwise, the serum might react to temperature changes and lose its protective effect, Mr. Dugan warned.
Much depends on the infrastructure
Usually vaccines are transported and stored at plus 2-8° Centigrade. So transporting pharmaceuticals that require special conditions is a common task managed daily by many airlines and their ground handling agents worldwide, provided their facilities are equipped with cool rooms offering different climate zones. Transportation at -70°C will pose serious challenges.
Yet. in a reaction, Oleg Baykov, Deputy CEO of Russian biotech company Biocard, engaged in the delivery of Russian vaccine "Sputnik V", backed Mr. Dugan’s assumptions: "Transporting the vaccines at ultra-low temperatures is definitely possible. In this case, specialized thermal containers and refrigerants are the best option for safely accommodating the COVID-19 serums or other sensitive medicines during air carriage and ground processes.”
… and also the people
He pointed out that the weak spot for maintaining constant temperatures are hubs and transfer points, including remote distribution centers, where temperature deviations can occur if the ground handling personnel is not trained well enough, not knowing how to treat the vaccine shipments professionally.
He claims that leading Russian logistics players including carriers such as ABC or Volga-Dnepr subsidiary ATRAN are ready to cope with the challenge and able to assure domestic transports or within the neighboring CIS states not exceeding 4 days. In a separate statement, ABC confirmed that the carrier is well prepared to fly the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccines, utilizing special thermal containers that maintain steady temperatures, even if the serums demand -70 C degrees.
Transberry opts for passive cooling
Another household name confirming the Russian logistics industry’s readiness to transport and handle the highly temperature sensitive vaccines is Transberry LLC. The company provides express delivery and forwarding services combined with air cargo transportation. Depending on the amount of vaccines and the specifics of the supply chain, the volume of ice is calculated. Delivery even to the remotest corners of the country will take 3-4 days, Transberry maintains. The best conditions for smooth and professional handling exist at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. There the ground handler Russian Cargo runs a 2017 inaugurated large warehouse, which is equipped with 60 storage positions for temp critical goods.
An executive of Russia’s Pharmaceutical Customer Support Department told local media that planning and equipping warehouses with cool zones needs 4 – 6 months – minimum. The same amount of time will be needed to decide on a contractor, to install the mostly imported equipment and train the ground handling personnel as best as possible. Essential conditions to ensure that everything goes well once the first major wave of COVID-19 vaccines produced by BioNTech/Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, or CureVac arrives by air and needs to be processed. The Russian vaccine Sputnik V was only classed as an “also ran” in the announcements.
We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender name is authentic.