The Logistics of Vaccines and PPE
The logistics of vaccines and PPE - aka personal protective equipment - have become complicated since the pandemic began. While these products have long been necessities in the medical field, demand for vaccines and PPE during different coronavirus periods placed logistics front and center. It hasn't only been about vaccine approval or production of masks, but getting those finished products to where they're needed most when they're needed most. And where they're needed most has at different times been literally everywhere. When considering the logistics of vaccines, there are very specific security and temperature-controlled cold chain needs. While PPE - masks and the like - don't have the same requirements, they present unique shipping challenges as well - especially when they're needed yesterday.
Vaccine logistics during COVID
Once the pandemic began, the race was on for COVID vaccines to help end lockdowns and safely return life to a semblance of normal. And once vaccines gained government approval in the U.S. and around the world, it was up to logistics to get shots into arms. Who handles vaccine logistics? In most cases in the U.S. at least, it's a federal delivery system. The exception is Pfizer, which takes on shipping and delivery itself. A logistics challenge for just about all of the authorized vaccines is maintaining the proper temperature throughout the shipping process.
The need for a cold chain of temperature-controlled environments is one factor that has made getting vaccines to developing nations more difficult - as resources in this regard are tougher to come by. In Asia for instance, some developing countries are just starting to get consistent vaccine supplies this year - a year after many developed nations had fairly wide availability - and they'll be tackling challenging logistics scenarios in many cases to get them to patients. In addition to temperature, security is paramount. The U.S. government recommends several steps be in place to ensure vaccines arrive safely and un-tampered with.
Demand for PPE exploded as patients were hospitalized in the early stages of the pandemic. Medical professionals and other front-line workers who simply could not stay home required masks and other measures to protect themselves, so shipping PPE had to happen quickly. And that meant logistics experts needed to jump to action. In one case here at InTek, our team worked with a FEMA supplier to coordinate an expedited delivery of more than six tons of PPE to front line workers caring for COVID patients. Watch our video to learn more:
As the pandemic continued, PPE demand shifted from front-line workers to the general public, as mask mandates made them a necessity of daily life as case counts rose. This led to a need to supply retailers - both online and brick & mortar - shifting the shipping of PPE away from purely medical supply chains. The shift subjected mask and other PPE shipping to the supply chain whims of the day, and associated delays. Now more than two years into the pandemic, mask demand has waned, but COVID has likely led to a permanent shift in shipping PPE.
If you need help shipping sensitive items like vaccines or PPE, working with experienced logistics professionals is a must. Reach out with what your needs are, and we'll discuss how InTek can help.
To learn more about freight and logistics, visit our Learning Center. And below, find more about how outsourcing your freight and logistics management to experts like us can make your life easier:
- Complete Guide to Freight Management Solutions
- Logistics Service Provider vs. Freight Broker: A Comprehensive Comparison