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Helping the global pharmaceutical supply chain. | by Natalia Pedroza | Aug, 2020

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Because finding a vaccine is just not enough.

Natalia Pedroza

It’s great to see how suddenly pharmaceutical companies, once competing with each other, are now in a joint race to discover a vaccine that will end the pandemic.

The day when we can say that the vaccine is available and that the lockdown will finally end is coming. However, not only is finding the vaccine not so easy, but once discovered it also puts the pharmaceutical industry supply chain in trouble.

Let’s think about it this way. For the vaccine to be effective and the pandemic to end, the majority of the population should be vaccinated.

There are government plans, such as that of Colombia, in which the possibility of implementing a staggered vaccination plan is evaluated. First the medical personnel, then the high-risk population, then the children, and finally the rest of the population. (Diario Portafolio, 2020)

This could facilitate access to the vaccine without saturating the supply chain. However, Colombia is not going to be the only country interested in its citizens having access to the vaccine.

Even applying the tiered system, there are 7.8 Billion people in the world. That would be the number of doses required so that one more person in the world does not get infected. However, some of the vaccines that are being developed require more than one dose.

Imagine supplying the market with 15.6 Billion doses, which must remain in a strict cold chain.

There are currently 136 pharmaceutical laboratories looking for a treatment or vaccine against Covid19 according to the IFPMA. These laboratories are distributed around the world, which makes the eventual distribution of vaccines globally a challenge.

According to the Spanish Society of Pediatrics and its associated vaccination committee, the cold chain during the distribution of vaccines is essential to guarantee the success of treatment. According to the organization, each vaccine has a specific time in which the vaccine remains stable at a certain temperature. If these conditions are altered, the doses run the risk of losing their effectiveness.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Taking into account the above, it can be said that not only is it necessary to find the vaccine against the virus, but also that a way is required to optimize the logistics of its distribution so that when injected it meets its objective.

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In normal situations, the biggest challenge in the logistics of vaccine distribution is maintaining the cold chain at all stages. Currently, pharmaceutical laboratories, drug distributors and medical centers have an established protocol for dose management, from the time they leave the production center until they reach the person in charge of handling and administering the doses.

Take the case of Spain as an example, but most countries have similar management protocols.

Under normal conditions, the doses stored in the refrigerators awaiting distribution should not exceed 50% of the total storage capacity of the refrigerator. Once loaded into the transport truck, it must meet certain requirements in terms of temperature and light, which are measured along the way with sensors in order to prevent any damage.

Once the medical center or drug collection center is reached, the person in charge of receiving the doses needs to send a fax or email with an incident notification sheet to the manufacturers.

It is right there where communication solutions will play an important role in the battle against the pandemic.

If under the previous example you have access to an instant communication tool that allows automating processes, such as the notification that the doses were loaded into the truck at 7pm, and another one to know that they were delivered at 7:30 pm, it would allow people in charge to know the time in which the doses could have been exposed to harmful factors.

Photo by Alex Mecl on Unsplash

This could be achieved through QR codes on the transport boxes. When scanning them, a database is automatically fed with the references of the doses that go in the box and the time at which they were loaded onto the truck. In the same way, once at the collection point or medical center, they are scanned to record the time it took to transport.

Let us suppose that when taking to the medical or collection center a fault is identified in the truck carrying the doses. Today the technical team is notified by call or email. By using a tool with the ability to automate this process through a SuperBot, the time the truck spends immobilized before being repaired is reduced.

In addition, it is recorded that the truck had a breakdown, and therefore it is necessary to review the history of deliveries made during the day to ensure that the other doses will not be affected.

After all the work of taking care of the cold chain, the vaccines arrive at the medical center to be applied to the patients.

Photo by Alex Mecl on Unsplash

The person in charge of receiving the doses must mainly perform 5 tasks.

1. Check the correct reception of vaccines

2. Record the date of receipt

3. Record the number of doses received

4. Record the expiration date and the manufacturing laboratory

5. Notify the manufacturer of the return of expired doses

To fulfill this task, the people in charge used to go to a spreadsheet and record the information there.

Today there is a tool capable of notifying the manufacturer and distributor of the correct reception of the doses and of making the other records, simply by selecting different buttons within a mobile messaging application that automates these processes.

The tool I am talking about is called Twnel and it is used by the largest companies globally to coordinate the communications of members of the supply chain.

Why do I say that it would be the solution that the pharmaceutical supply chain requires?

Because it uses the mobile messaging format that is the most used in person-to-person communications globally.

Also, because through Superbots you can automate processes such as:

1. Taking orders for vaccine doses (which could shed light on demand and thus calculate production)

2. Registration of arrival at a collection or production center for transport

3. Dose loading record prior to distribution

4. Record of delivery of orders to medical centers or collection centers

5. Geolocation of transport vehicles

6. Notification of changes or requests

Among hundreds of other things.

An improvement in the communications of pharmaceutical laboratories, distributors and medical centers could contribute to the optimization of the logistics required to distribute 15 Billion doses of the Covid19 vaccine. In the same way, optimizing such logistics prevents many of the doses from being damaged by delays and inconveniences in distribution.

According to Dinero magazine, a prestigious Colombian media outlet, the Coronavirus vaccine would cost about 11,000 Colombian pesos or the equivalent of 3 USD. By multiplying those 3 USD by 15 Billions, the value of the vaccine begins to be relevant without counting that, according to the World Health Organization, almost 50% of the vaccination doses were lost in a year due to inefficiencies in the distribution and maintenance of the cold chain.

For those lovers of numbers this would be 10.5 Billion dollars lost due to communication and coordination failures that can be improved.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

The thing we are most proud of is that the company that created the tool capable of avoiding many of these headaches was founded in the United States. It is currently available globally through Twnel Messenger or Twnel Web Messenger in different languages ​​such as Spanish, English and Portuguese, which facilitates adoption in this case.

Do you have any ideas to improve the supply chain using mobile messaging and SuperBots?

Leave me a comment.

Are you interested in this idea and want to see Twnel success stories in industries with complex supply chains?

Visit our website now or book a Demo.

Together we can change the world.



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