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The Logistics of Moving Vaccines and Vaccinations

Will emergency managers become involved?

by Eric Holdeman / November 22, 2020

COVID-19 vaccinations are likely one of the largest logistical challenges ever undertaken. While here in the United States we have around 330 million people, there are a total of 7.5 billion people alive today around the world.

OK, so you are not going to be responsible for vaccinations halfway around the world. But, but, but, if you live in a rural area of the state you know how many resources there are available to do the traditional work in medicine and emergency medical services (EMS). I think the smaller the jurisdiction is, the more they will need your planning, organizing and logistical help. The same might be true of larger metropolitan areas, but that is less sure to me at this point — not knowing all the logistical challenges.

For instance, in a Washington Post article, there was this for cold weather regions of the nation:

"And in Maine, top health official Nirav Shah spends sleepless nights devising drive-through immunization facilities where vaccinators won’t have to wear winter parkas in addition to their personal protective gear. Shah’s solution? Fire stations and carwashes. Those venues are heated “so you have shelter from the snow and cold,” he said. “We haven’t inked any of those agreements yet, but that’s where our head is at.” Buoyed by promising results from major clinical trials of two coronavirus vaccines, public health officials are preparing for the daunting task ahead of delivering those shots to tens of millions of Americans."

Previously, I've mentioned the challenges associated with two of the vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine in particular must remain super cold:

"The Pfizer vaccine will be shipped to sites selected by states in GPS-tracked, suitcase-sized “shippers” with 50 pounds of dry ice pellets, and must be kept at minus-70 Celsius. Upon arrival, the dry ice must be refreshed, or the vials of vaccine must be transferred to ultralow-temperature freezers. The specifications are exacting if the vials stay in the shippers: The container cannot be opened more than twice a day, the dry ice must be replenished every five days, and the contents must be used within 15 days. The vials can stay at refrigerator temperature for five days before their contents degrade. The Moderna vaccine is less demanding, with a storage temperature of minus-20 Celsius, which is the same for many medications. The shipments need to be coordinated with kits of syringes, needles, face masks and other ancillary supplies."

All of this means that you should not suppose that you are off the hook for participating in the logistics of our national vaccination program. You might not make or deliver dry ice, but today, I'd look around for where there is dry ice in your larger regional community! You might be needing it. 


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