When the World Health Organization declared the pandemic a public health emergency of international concern over a year ago, public health authorities and the private sector started studying the virus to develop a vaccine to stop it from spreading.
By the middle of the year, researchers and scientists were hard at work in coming out with vaccines to deal with the v nofollowirus. While vaccines take years to develop, the situation accelerated the process. Previous research on similar viruses and the latest vaccine development technology also hastened the process.
And with around a dozen vaccines available for use, the next phase in dealing with the pandemic is to ensure the proper delivery of the vaccines to different parts of the country and the world.
Since the vaccines required different temperature levels, the authorities used dry ice to maintain their temperature. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked with aviation stakeholders and vaccine manufacturers to set and implement guidelines to ensure safety when transporting the vaccines. They also worked on providing the necessary support to prioritize the transport of these life-saving medicines.
The authorities also made sure flights carrying the vaccines received priority. The flights also received continuous air traffic services to ensure the cargo is not delayed. This was essential for the pandemic response of the federal government. It required coordination among different government agencies and private sector industries to reduce the risk of failure.
Since maintaining the temperature of the vaccines requires a good amount of dry ice while on the aircraft, the authorities made sure it was safe. It was necessary to use suitable materials to prevent dry ice sublimation from affecting aircraft operations. Sublimated dry ice produces carbon dioxide that can cause asphyxiation if the concentration is high enough.
The authorities had to ensure the packaging can decrease the sublimation rate and increase the use of dry ice to maintain the temperature of the vaccines. It was also important to have a good supply of these packaging materials so that they can transport as many vaccines as possible to different parts of the country and the world.
The FAA also worked with aviation stakeholders to review the risk assessment and mitigation plans of air carriers before they received permission to carry the vaccines. The review included the identified hazards, mitigation strategies, and risk control measures of the air carriers. These should ensure the aircraft can operate safely while they carry a considerable amount of dry ice.
Transport by Air
Before the actual transport, the FAA already tested transporting dry ice using the packaging vaccine developers will use to bring the vaccines to different locations. This allowed the authorities to check the sublimation rates while inside the aircraft. The test involved using actual operational environment or while the aircraft was on the ground and in the air.
The test also took into account the effect of the dry ice pellet sizes on the sublimation rate. The results allowed manufacturers of packaging to ensure the sublimation rates stayed within the parameters necessary for safe aircraft operations.
Recognizing the Challenges
Aside from the temperature, the authorities also had to deal with other challenges in ensuring the safe transport of the vaccines. Modern vaccines go through a complex manufacturing process that uses fragile molecules to encourage the immune system to prevent the virus from infecting its host. They use larger molecules that were susceptible to damage and were sensitive to vibration and shock. These two hazards may affect the safety and efficacy of the drug.
The complexities of the vaccine make it challenging for the authorities to transport them. This comes as the world tries to deal with the virus before the current variants of the virus spread further. There are currently four variants of concern (VOC) that have reached different countries around the world.
Additionally, four variants of interest (VOI) have also emerged. These new variants have different levels of transmissibility, immune escape, and disease severity. This makes it necessary for the authorities to ensure the vaccines reach as many countries worldwide to prevent the spread of these variants.
Reducing vibration risk and maintaining the temperature are two of the most important aspects that the authorities must deal with to ensure the vaccines are transported safely. Despite these challenges, the authorities are using their experience in the Ebola outbreak in 2015 to transport the vaccines. Moreover, they also have a system of checking the efficacy and safety of the vaccines once they reach their destinations.
As the world continues to struggle against the pandemic, the authorities are working hard to ensure the vaccines reach their intended recipients with minimal losses.