With COVID-19 cases rising across the country, the need for a safe and reliable vaccine is increasing. Both Pfizer and Moderna have announced vaccine trials with more than 90% effectiveness.
Creating vaccines and getting federal approval are only the first hurdles which are followed by finding ways to transport the highly-perishable vaccines to millions of Americans.
“It’s going to be a massive logistics operation on a scale the world has never seen and the United States has never seen,” said Anna Nagurney, Professor of Operations Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “It’s going to involve our fantastic freight service providers, UPS, FedEx and the various airlines to get these very valuable products from where they are manufactured, finished and filled to points of demand where they are going to be administered into the population.”
“There is a lot happening right now in terms of airlines. Many of the airplanes have been 'mothballed.' I think it is going to be really important for the cargo of the vaccines to use a lot of the passenger planes,” Nagurney added.
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With some vaccine production happening in colder parts of the country, winter weather could be a factor in shipping and distribution issues.
“It’s something people aren’t really talking about, but those of us who work in supply chain disruption management are envisioning all these different scenarios that we’ve got to be prepared for,” Nagurney said. “Getting the supplies to where we need them and doing it really well so that they are not stuck on the tarmac someplace… we need to make sure that we are really wasting as little of these [vaccines] as possible.”
Planning must be multi-layered between the manufacturers of all the components needed to administer the vaccines; including glass vials, syringes and needles.
“You have to make sure that the various components are also online and done in a timely manner. You can have vaccines arriving, but if you can’t inject them, they are absolutely useless,” Nagurney said.
“I think we can do it. I’m very very optimistic. We’ve got the expertise. I’m positive,” Nagurney added.