Massive numbers of trucks will be needed to move vaccines

by Inside Logistics Online Staff
OYSTER BAY, New York – As the world awaits the approval of Covid-19 vaccines, freight carriers are gearing up for an initial 2021 goal of transporting an average of 271 million ultracold and cold doses per month (nine million doses per day).

Early modeling by global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research shows that there will be at least 857 temperature-controlled trucks leaving Pfizer and Moderna manufacturing facilities or distribution centres each month.

Should AstraZeneca also receive approval, these numbers will be materially increased. Distribution and delivery will continue to grow and get more complicated after the large urban and suburban areas are covered.

Freezer frenzy

“Early vaccine candidates require ultra-low temperatures, as much as -70 degrees Celsius ©, or -94 Fahrenheit. This is impacted by a lack of adequate storage capacity for these new types of Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. The containers to store and transport them are not widely available and not required for common vaccines,” said Susan Beardslee, freight transportation, and logistics principal analyst at ABI Research.

“Constant temperature control is needed from the manufacturing site to the inoculation sites. According to known criteria, people will require two vaccines from the same manufacturer within 21-28 days. That equates to at least 662 million doses in the United States and approximately 1.5 billion across the European Union.”

Much of the focus, to date, has been on fulfillment centres and modal capacity for air. Another concern is the need to seamlessly track temperatures and provide alerts for any out-of-spec loads. This involves integrated software, sufficient compute and sensor capabilities throughout, and the cooperation of both public and private entities across multiple modes and likely competitors.

“The scale of technology, strategy, and operations excellence needed will require transparency, flexibility, and scale never seen, and will take herculean efforts beyond the actual vaccine development and approval,” Beardslee points out.

No back to normal

“Although goods transportation has seen a promising rebound from the spring, pinch points continue, from driver shortages (back to 2018 levels) to container shortages and carrier bankruptcies due to increasing insurance costs and lower profits. Further digitization and integration of systems will provide greater visibility, flexibility, and ROI to supply chain participants that can improve economic performance, but likely after 2021 on a broader scale,” Beardslee explains.