A lot has changed across the globe in the past one year. The entire planet is going through a peace crisis due to the pandemic that has shaken the world to its core. It was mid-month of March last year when a life-threatening deadly Covid-19 virus took a toll on people’s lives. The second wave was all the more deadlier!
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world badly, the health sector and pharma companies geared up and started working on finding the solution. And the solution was vaccines. Various government agencies and healthcare organizations are working on vaccine administration. However, there are many challenges yet to be addressed; ensuring rapid and effective distribution of vaccines being one of them. Tracking, operating, and managing vaccines ensuring no wastage of doses can prove to be a daunting task without an effective solution. Here’s where IoT comes into the light for ensuring efficient vaccine transportation.
Role of IoT in Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution
IoT holds the efficiency to play the key role in several dimensions of life, such as the health system, which is one of the most crucial aspects amid this situation.
1. Efficient Production of Covid-19 Vaccine
Research says that the primary trial data of covid-19 vaccines is over 94% effective in restoring good health to Covid-19 infected patients. In the history of medicines, the first vaccine ever made for an epidemic situation took four years, but this Coronavirus vaccine took only eight months to come into existence considering the intensity of the situation. The vaccines were prepared but one of the most crucial scenarios it faced was that there weren’t adequate sources to distribute the vaccines among 660 million of the world’s population where each person needs to undergo two dosages of the vaccine.
IoT has helped manufacturing centers in maintaining the production levels for the widespread distribution of vaccines. IoT devices can help in gathering immense data related to manufacturing and help make the process all the more efficient. The PWC survey showed that 81% of industrial manufacturing units have witnessed an increase in efficiency with the involvement of IoT. IoT connectivity helps machines in communicating with each other for real-time changes and improved efficiency.
2. Tracking, Managing, and Rolling out Vaccines
There was a huge rise in the demand graph for Covid-19 vaccines without enough supply to meet the demand. The Covid scenario transformed the operation system of the supply chain and management world. Forums like SAS analytics and ECS came forward to deliver a high-end smart analysis, implementation, and virtual management against the pandemic, globally. Several forums came forward, facing this challenge like no other before. Cold-Chain distribution started relying on IoT platforms to carefully distribute these temperature-sensitive vaccines and enhance the organizational operational shipping and management system effectively within a shorter period to meet the key goal.
3. High-tech Warehouse Management
This contagious disease was acting as cancer for the system. It is during this that IoT became a turning point during this overwhelming situation. Many organizations invested in high-tech warehouse management techniques with the help of renowned IoT platforms to monitor the supply chain and inventory methods digitally. Smart equipment helped to keep the medications safe and keep track against any shock and moisture to the vaccine bottles and prevent any damage.
4. Low Power and long-range distribution in logistics
When working with cold-chain supply management, few requirements need to be administered. IoT seems to be the right choice that acted as a ray of hope to the distribution channel in fighting back against Covid. The smart sensors monitor shipments and ensure exact arrival time, temperature control for safe distribution, and tracking the number of supplies. The IoT-based super sensors also help in tracking the location of the vaccine deliveries over a vast geography.
5. Minimizing the risk of Human-error and Enabling safe distribution of Vaccines
IoT sensors can work far more accurately and help avoid human mistakes to such critical lifesaving assets. IoT sensors can detect the temperature range and send the acquired data to the allotted gateway, which then pass on the information to the cloud-based station for analysis. This alerts the situation and precautionary measures can be taken accordingly before any mishap.
Talking about the cold chain, IoT is playing a major role. Every vaccine has a different col chain viz. ultracold chain i.e. below –94℉ (–70℃), the refrigerated chain between 36℉ to 46℉ (2℃ to 8℃) and frozen chain below –4℉ (–20℃). Pfizer vaccine for example requires the Ultracold Chain, and the company has designed a box to manage the temperature in transit, using dry ice to maintain the –94℉ (–70℃) temperature for up to 10 days. These boxes implement IoT technology to monitor location and temperature in real-time.
- Cold Chain Vaccine Distribution
Various IoT platforms and devices are designed to track vaccines, share information, and perform actions in real-time to identify and monitor the entire cold chain of vaccine distribution. The mobile sensors are employed on the packages to maintain vaccine temperatures and ensure the authenticity of the vaccine. The temperature data thus collected en-route is provided to the healthcare provider. Besides, the system sends notifications with the location details to the vaccine stakeholder.
- Vaccine Supply Chain Tracking
Various companies have developed blockchain technology solutions to help in tracking the state of the vaccines. Blockchain plays a vital role in the cold chain distribution of vaccines as it tracks all the events that take place from manufacturing of raw materials to vaccine distribution and administration.
- Security of Cold Chain IoT Devices against Hackers
We all know that there are people who in the name of the pandemic are continuously thinking of their financial gain, and cybercriminals are no exception to this. These cybercriminals and miscreants use various methods for their interests. Supply chain components need to be kept secure with the advanced measures taken by the solution providers. Companies are making efforts and have developed blockchain and cold chain-based management solutions that help govern all aspects of manufacturing, distribution, and administration of vaccines safely and securely.
Blackfrog Technologies is a company that with its solar-powered vaccine carrier (integrated with an IoT device) is helping in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. In conversation with Mayur Shetty, CEO of the company, we came to know more about how vaccines are being distributed, how the medical refrigeration system manufactured by their company is helping in vaccine distribution. We also asked him about the role of IoT in vaccine distribution. Here is the insightful information he shared with us:
“The most important aspects of vaccine delivery are that the vaccine temperature should be controlled, and they need to be maintained between 2-8 degrees Celsius. If the temperatures go below zero degrees, the vaccines are rendered inefficacious and they lose their potency. IoT helps in tracking the vaccine as it continuously transmits live vital statistics like the temperature of the vaccines if there are any excursions, the human interference and how the box is opened, where is the device going, who is getting immunized. Other than this, it gives information on where are the hotspots of the disease and are those areas being addressed for immunization.
Emvólio with an IoT device helps in tracking the vaccine. From the manufacturing standpoint or an R & D standpoint, we are an ISO 1345 certified medical devices manufacturer and we follow all the most stringent regulations in both design and manufacturing of the product. The product is also compliant with IEC 60601, which is the highest medical device standard.
Apart from that, the product has been designed as per WHO PQS standards meant for vaccine delivery. The mini portable refrigeration system with an IoT device strictly adheres to stringent regulations on the kind of temperature the vaccines need to maintain, the duration, the drop tests, and ruggedness. The system has an inbuilt GSM/GPS.
If the vaccines are subjected to suboptimal temperatures, then it has alert mechanisms. He also added that the company is live in five states - Karnataka, Tamil Nadu –Jharkhand, Bihar, and Manipur and their focus on moving ahead will be more of Northeast states itself because that's where problems of inaccessibility and poor infrastructure is.”
From production till finally injecting; vaccines require uninterrupted refrigeration, vaccines need to be stored and transported with utmost care. In the entire process of vaccine storage and distribution, IoT-based temperature and location tracking, exposure times, and significant analytics are helping to a great extent. The application of IoT to the supply chain can ensure that the dose reaches every patient, and no wastage takes place.