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Bridging Supply Chain Gaps For mRNA Vaccines

By Kawal Preet | December 9, 2022

mRNA vaccines need to be shipped and stored at extremely low temperatures, meaning mRNA clinical trial supply chains must be extra-robust to overcome logistics challenges.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have been working to develop successful vaccines within expedited time periods. The rapid spread of the original virus strain and its subsequent variants highlighted the importance of vaccine technologies capable of swift deployment for human trials, with efficacy and safety the top priorities.

Challenges in the mRNA vaccine supply chain

As mRNA vaccines take center stage, the challenges surrounding their formulation and stability have become apparent. One of the major challenges of mRNA vaccine technology is its dependency on cold chain shipping and storage. Vaccines need to be shipped and stored at very low temperatures. This requires freezers capable of handling temperatures of −80°C; not readily available at every clinical trial site. With vaccines subject to strict regulatory controls, the right cold chain shipping infrastructure must be in place if mRNA vaccines are to realize their full potential.
Medical sample with FedEx storage package

Logistics providers connect the dots with hi-tech future-focused solutions

Logistics companies are playing an important role in building reliability in healthcare supply chains. This means end-to-end solutions for storage and transportation at specific temperatures, from the point of manufacture to the healthcare facilities where they will be used. As a trusted partner in clinical trial and healthcare logistics, FedEx is well-positioned to handle mRNA vaccine shipments around the world. Since 2020, we’ve supported shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries and territories around the world.
To handle these complex, potentially life-changing shipments effectively, we leverage our cold chain capabilities and proprietary sensor-based tracking technology. And we’re backed by a dedicated healthcare team, with a global network of aircraft and facilities to support the express transportation of vaccines.

Our cold chain storage facilities are temperature-controlled with a monitoring system to protect shipments before and after transit, including down to −80°C. During shipments, high-performance reusable thermal packaging supports the temperature requirements specified by the manufacturer. We provide 96 hours of temperature stability to keep contents healthy and viable in case of unexpected emergencies.
A pharmacy technician picking up temperature-controlled supplies into shipping box

End-to-end tracking technologies help ensure regulatory compliance. By generating comprehensive data and providing continuous visibility on the temperature of biopharmaceutical shipments, we maintain necessary protocols for quality assurance.

Pharmaceutical companies around the world are continuing to advance COVID-19 vaccines to respond to new strains of the virus. The lessons learned in COVID-19 vaccine design and production are also being reapplied to treat other viruses. Fortunately, logistics service providers like FedEx are transforming rapidly to keep pace with scientific breakthroughs. That way, we can ensure the safe delivery of promising new treatments that help save lives.

For more information on our cold chain and clinical trial logistics solutions, head to our Healthcare page now.

A version of this article first appeared in Biospectrum Asia On December 6, 2022.
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About the Author
the author bio

Kawal Preet

Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, FedEx Express

Kawal started out as a FedEx engineer in Singapore over 26 years ago, and she’s now the President of FedEx Express AMEA. Kawal is based in Hong Kong.

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