Why Data Tracking Is Vital for Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution
There is now hope that the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated lives around the globe may be coming to the end. Pharma companies, academic institutions, and governments have been working together since the pandemic started in the hope of creating an effective vaccine for the virus, and it seems like several vaccines may be ready to go.
Developing a safe and effective vaccine against the virus is just the first hurdle to clear. The next step is to distribute the vaccine to billions of people around the world. This incredible endeavor may turn out to be equally as challenging as developing the vaccines themselves.
Successfully completing this Herculean logistical challenge requires a coordinated effort among pharma companies, governments, logistics companies, and healthcare providers. It also takes an incredible amount of data tracking. Data monitoring is going to be pivotally important from the moment the vaccine leaves the manufacturer until everyone who needs a vaccine receives one.
What will make worldwide vaccination efforts succeed? Precise and ongoing data management. Luckily, we have the capability in the 21st century to manage all the data required to make this work. Here is a more in-depth look at why data tracking is vital for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Knowing where the vaccine doses are located
One logistical challenge that everyone understands involves answering a seemingly simple question: where are the doses of vaccine? When we are talking about tracking hundreds of millions–even billions–of doses, this becomes an exponentially complicated issue.
GPS technology will track the physical location of vaccine doses to make sure they get to the correct places in a reasonable timeframe. This helps ensure that the doses of vaccine stay safe and effective and that it is distributed equitably around the country and around the world.
Matching vaccines with high priority patients
Once the vaccine gets to the locations it needs to be, the next question is, who gets the vaccine first? As the vaccine gets rolled out in batches in the U.S., it is up to state and municipal governments to decide who gets the first shots. Frontline healthcare workers and emergency responders will undoubtedly get the first rounds of vaccines pretty much everywhere. But there are several types of candidates for the next rounds. This is where data tracking comes in.
Whether states prioritize populations like nursing home communities, minority communities, or other frontline workers like teachers, data tracking will help the government identify and assess who needs it most, when they get it, and how long it will take to vaccinate everyone in the identified community.
Doses of the vaccine need to be kept cold to maintain their safety and effectiveness. Some vaccines, like the Moderna vaccine, need to be kept frozen at around -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit). Others, like Pfizer's vaccine, need to be maintained in a deep freeze at around -70 Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit). To maintain these temperatures and the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, the vaccines' environmental conditions must be closely tracked.
Data loggers do the job. These monitors use sensors to monitor environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity and can report the conditions to a centralized, cloud-based monitoring system. Dickson is one such company that offers data loggers that provide continuous monitoring of sensitive assets such as vaccines.
Keeping tabs on how much more is needed
The initial vaccines that are rolled out will be in batches of millions of doses. This sounds like a lot but when you consider that there are over seven and a half billion people in the world, even 20 million doses (which is what the initial delivery is expected to be) doesn't seem like much, especially when most of the vaccines require two doses per person.
Governments around the world are partnering with data companies to comprehensively track the vaccines so that manufacturers can understand how much more of the vaccine is needed. This will allow the manufacturers to keep up with demand while not over-producing once most people have received the vaccine.
Tracking the overall effectiveness
The whole point of a vaccine is for localities, countries, or the entire world to develop herd immunity so that enough of the population is inoculated and the virus stops spreading. The figures on herd immunity vary, and the more contagious a disease, the larger a portion of the population must be inoculated before a herd immunity threshold is reached. Covid-19 is highly contagious. But data mining and data monitoring systems in the healthcare industry will help us reach the herd immunity levels we need by keeping precise track of how many people have gotten the vaccine and how many still need it.
Data will also be used in tracking the effectiveness of the vaccines themselves. The vaccines are so new that no one can be 100% sure how long they will last. Some vaccines, like a flu shot, need to be taken every year to protect against new strains. Others, like the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) need to be readministered after 10 years. Tracking the data on both the vaccine and the spread of the virus will be key to see how effective these vaccines really are.
Vaccines have provided a light at the end of the very long and dark COVID-19 tunnel. The fact that they are developed is not the end of that tunnel though. Distributing the vaccines around the country and the world will be an incredibly difficult task. But success is imperative if we hope to beat the coronavirus.
Data tracking is essential in this massive distribution effort. It helps physically track the vaccine and get it to the people who need it most urgently; helps maintain the cold chain and the vaccines' safety and efficacy; enables production of the appropriate inventory and, eventually, helps experts assess the vaccines' effectiveness. If data is monitored and analyzed every step of the way in the distribution process, we all have a much better chance of making it through to the other side.