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LCL Conversation Series: Vaccine Logistics Webinar Recap

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Published on Friday, 02 October 2020

Did you miss the kick-off webinar of our LCL Conversation Series fall/winter season, "Vaccine Development & Distribution Logistics in the age of COVID-19"? Read a recap of our experts' presentations below. 

We were privileged to bring you two high-profile expert researchers and academics in Health Care Logistics and Supply Chains, who gave in-depth and insightful perspectives on this critical subject, top-of-mind for all of us still coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and hoping for a safe vaccine in the not-too-distant future.

Dr. Julie Swann, Department Head and A. Doug Allison Distinguished Professor of the Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University in the United States, presented the complexity of the Health Care system in the U.S. with the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and also contrasted the U.S. situation with a global view of other countries.

In particular, Dr. Swann, an expert in disease modelling, especially for influenza and the H1N1 pandemic, highlighted the importance of prioritizing access to a future COVID vaccine (people at greater risk such as age 65+, co-morbidity factors), which has not yet been finalized in the U.S., and also of vanquishing "vaccine hesitancy" by people who are skeptical or fearful of a vaccine and its potential side-effects. According to The New York Times tracker, several vaccines are already in Phase 2-3 development (Moderna, Pfizer, BioNTech) and demand very complex sourcing/supply chain of sub-components in quantities necessary to produce millions or billions of vaccine. They will require regulatory approvals by governments investing in their development, before being made available safely to the public.

Dr. Swann reminded that the situation changes daily, that multiple doses are expected, and if the virus mutates, taking a vaccine on a regular basis may be required. Given the strict transportation requirements (sub-80 degree temperature in a cold-chain process; cold-storage; adapted containers; 5-day-only validity of the vaccine), the distribution logistics of a vaccine are a monumental challenge, especially to rural and less-populated areas where a greater travel distance is necessary to reach people.

Dr. Prashant Yadav, a globally-recognized scholar in the area of Health Care supply chains and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, focused on vaccine manufacturing and distribution and gave a treat sneak-preview of his research project on vaccine probability of success modelling and manufacturing modelling (released on October 1st!) Dr. Yadav presented his paradigm and also bottlenecks for vaccine development and manufacturing, including the sourcing of adulents to amplify the immune response to the coronavirus.

Dr. Yadav's universal "philosophical" plea for an "equitable" distribution of the vaccine worldwide was especially impactful. He argues that, in order to counter "vaccine nationalism", manufacturing should ideally be located in small countries or city-states (such as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg; Singapore; South Korea; or even Vatican-city, why not), so that the output is not entirely consumed in the manufacturing location but exported more widely throughout the world. He reminded that bases are not just possible in the U.S., Europe, or China, but potentially also in Lagos, Nigeria; Mumbai, India; or Dakar, Senegal. The question is "how can we bring this all together?"

Luxembourg was cited as an especially important potential distribution hub as well, given its state-of-the-art logistics, sophisticated air cargo handling and transportation operations at Findel Airport - one of Europe's largest cargo hubs - and the flagship all-cargo airline Cargolux, with recognized expertise in Cold Chain pharmaceutical storage and transport.

If you would like to obtain the slides from this event, or a recording of the webinar, please contact LCL Outreach Communication Officer, Carla Rosen-Vacher at carla.rosen-vacher@uni.lu.