Commenting on the news of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, Professor Richard Wilding OBE, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University, one of the world’s leading logistics and supply chain experts, said: “This is likely to be one of the biggest logistical challenges we have faced this century. 

“A successful rapid deployment of any proven vaccine doesn’t just rely on the amount of vaccine that can be produced it relies on multiple factors such as infrastructure, information systems and having a workforce that can administer the vaccine. 

“What we will see is essentially like a product launch, with a fast ramp-up, then a different supply chain for when it reaches a steady state, then one for a decline in demand. Just like a product launch, as well as the availability of product, you also have to generate demand by persuading the population that they must get the vaccine, the demand creation element. Logistics and supply chain is about fulfilling this demand.

“Reports that the Pfizer drug needs to be stored at -70°C will only add to the complexity around transportation and storage logistics with specialist storage needed. The specialist infrastructure and storage equipment will become a supply chain in its own right with its own manufacturing and distribution processes attached to it. Stresses on this supply chain will then impact on how much vaccine you can move.

“Governments and health professionals need to seek out and listen to not just pharmaceutical supply chain experts but also those that are used to operating and releasing products at great speed such as technology companies like Apple, fashion companies and supermarkets.  

“For the supply chain, the scale and speed needed and the challenges it will face will be immense. However, I’m confident that if knowledge and best practice is sought out from supply chain experts across industries then this can be pulled off.” 

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.