Vaccines are highly perishable products, which are being stored and delivered with specialized refrigerators and reefer van units. Distributing vaccines is a major issue today given the pandemic is still ongoing and mass immunization against COVID-19 is viewed as a way to end it.
Vaccines are handled differently. The differences in their handling depend not just on the type of disease they fight, but also their brand as different manufacturers have different sets of protocols for them.
Resources to prepare for transporting vaccines with the reefer van
Vehicles used to transport vaccines should be conditioned and set up to maintain low temperatures. Other materials should also be used to better regulate the temperature inside the reefer van for the vaccines.
- Reefer van cooling system. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is notable as one if not the most temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccine today. Regulations require this particular vaccine to be stored and delivered in ultra-cold environments at -80ºC to -60ºC. On the other hand, the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine can be stored at 2ºC to 8ºC, while the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine only requires regular fridge temperature.
Anyone involved in the delivery of vaccines with a reefer van should ensure that the vehicle’s cooling system can make up with the temperature requirements of the vaccines.
- Insulating materials. Vaccines inside the reefer van should also be contained inside insulated containers. Insulating materials such as bubble wraps or corrugated cardboards should also be employed.
- Cooling substances. Aside from the cooling system of the reefer van, some types of vaccines may require coolants such as frozen water bottles or blocks of dry ice to maintain the cold chain.
Every team or person tasked to deliver vaccines with a reefer van should be familiar with the dos and don’ts of transporting such highly perishable goods.
- Follow temperature requirements. A person handling vaccines should be aware of the temperature requirements of a vaccine for him or her to be able to prepare the right reefer van for the job. He or she should also check if the refrigerated van can maintain a certain temperature for the vaccine to be delivered safely. It is important to check the capabilities of the cooling system that the reefer van has before loading vaccines into it.
- Understand health guidelines. Some vaccines are highly sensitive like the COVID-19 vaccine and there are specific regulations for handling them. The persons involved in the delivery of vaccines should be knowledgeable in the procedures and protocols of packing and transport of the vaccine with the reefer van.
- Arrange proper documents. During the enhanced community quarantine in many parts of the Philippines, people saw a disruption in the supply chain as cities and municipalities closed. Today, localized lockdowns are still keeping reefer van units and other delivery trucks from continuing their journey. However, with the proper documents, such as health and travel permits from the government and medical institutions, the reefer van carrying the vaccine could be guaranteed a safe passage.
- Do not be complacent and assume smooth travel. Expecting the worst is a good mindset when one is involved in the transport of highly perishable products like vaccines. One should not assume that the travel with the reefer van will be smooth. Some towns and cities have localized lockdowns and these may affect the continuation of the travel. Putting some allowance on the delivery schedule can be done to minimize delays.
- Do not assume that the destination has the proper equipment to handle the vaccine. In a country like the Philippines, most of the low-temperature storage facilities are in the cities. People who are involved in the delivery of vaccines with a refrigerated van should put in mind the location of the destination. If the destination is in a rural area, it is safe to assume that it has no adequate storage equipment for the vaccine, and a plan B should be developed.