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COVID-19 vaccine logistics: from manufacturing to distribution

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 5:51 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -The federal government announced changes to vaccine rollout guidelines this week, announcing it will no longer hold back second doses. As folks wait for their turn, what does it take for the vaccines to go from manufacturing to someone’s arm?

The process of getting vaccines to communities can be a challenging process.

“This is the first time experience for the United States and for the entire world I should say because we have to vaccinate an entire population in a short period of time,” said Ekaterina Koromyslova, Assistant Professor of Construction & Operations Management at South Dakota State University.

Because of the need for temperature control especially for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination, distribution happens fairly quickly.

“Which takes about 1-2 days domestically in the United States and on average three days if it is distributed globally,” said Koromyslova.

Airlines are involved in distribution along with FedEx and UPS. The vaccines then go directly to administration sites

“Keeping Pfizer a little bit closer to the Sioux Falls area where the ultra cold storage is and we’ve been sending more of the Moderna out to more rural areas because of transport and especially this time of year you never know when you’re going to have to turn around because of a snow storm. We’ve got a little bit more flexibility with the Moderna,” said Dr. David Basel, Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group.

Some challenges include making sure vaccines have been distributed and all conditions have been met.

“They address this challenge by implementing special containers which help to track distribution, like each shipment in real time using GPS trackers. And it allows to control and monitor temperature from the beginning to the end of the process,” said Koromyslova.

Professor Koromyslova. says the most challenging part is actually administering the vaccines, especially once it becomes available to the general public.

“Basically healthcare facilities are not enough, pharmacies are not enough. We have to establish more centers to give shots to people,” said Koromyslova.

She suggests opening up distribution sites at universities and allowing nursing students to administer the vaccines for practice.

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