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Transport & Logistics

Transport of COVID-19 vaccines: FRAIKIN leverages its full array of expertise

The fight against the novel coronavirus first mobilised the energy of medical professionals, then researchers. Now the baton has been passed to the logistics sector, which will need to meet a key need among the population: rising to the challenge of delivering vaccines.

After many months of waiting, the prospect of a massive vaccination campaign is generating both enthusiasm and complications. Questions are being tackled at a European scale: how to transport millions of doses quickly and in compliance with storage conditions of unusual complexity. Nothing will be possible without the involvement of the entire logistics chain. The United Kingdom was the first to launch a mass vaccination campaign. Since 8 December, the most vulnerable British citizens and seniors over the age of 80 are eligible for vaccination. Hubs have been stood up in about 50 English hospitals. These will soon be supplemented by 1,000 vaccination centres spread across the entire country.

Thisfirst campaign in Europe is critical. Indeed, the 800,000 doses administered in this first wave, which were produced in Belgium, travelled via tunnel under the English Channel under extreme preservation conditions. The success of the operation undoubtedly foreshadows the obstacles that will have to be overcome in order to vaccinate nearly 450 million European citizens. Fraikin is already playing a role in meeting those challenges and is standing by at the ready.

Vaccine storage: the high stakes of the cold chain

For an experienced and reputable logistics enterprise like Fraikin, transporting a vaccine is nothing new, in and of itself. However, the usual storage temperatures range from -20 °C to +8 °C, while Pfizer’s vaccine must be preserved at a temperature of -70 °C. All the research and development teams at Fraikin have been working since the beginning of the summer to identify the best solutions to ensure the vaccines can be transported under optimal safety conditions.

Beyond the technologies that make it possible to maintain such extreme temperatures (nitrogen or carbon dioxide), the real difficulty is the ability to respond to the urgent need with access to an adequate number of suitable vehicles. Second to that is the matter of maintaining that fleet under circumstances that are uncertain by nature. Fraikin has already assisted several of its customers, including subsidiaries dedicated to the transport of medicines, to establish fleets of vehicles with 8 m3 capacity to deliver vaccines at -30 °C. But, until now, transporting at -70 °C was a niche market. The mobilisation of Fraikin’s range of expertise and know-how is essential to the successful completion of the mission.

Ensuring just-in-time deliveries

In the framework of negotiations with laboratories, theEuropean Commission made a strong commitment: 76% of the vaccines must be manufactured in Europe. For France, for example, the Ministry of Industry is planning for three of the six vaccines for which Europe has already placed pre-orders to be made on French soil. Nevertheless, all the actors in the logistics chain will be responsible for ensuring the swift, smooth and reliable delivery of vaccines in a just-in-time model. To this end, Fraikin will endeavour to participate by harnessing its technical, material and organisational expertise to improve the deliverability effort, the importance of which is clear to all, in both human and economic terms.

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