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Minus 70°C Cold Supply Chain Needed to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccine

Helen Colam

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Pfizer South Africa is busy developing a vaccine for the Coronavirus that is still having a devastating impact around the world. They are in-fact a long way down the road with the vaccine. It was reported on the 18th of November that they were days away from requesting FDA approval.

This is good news but a new challenge is on the horizon for many countries. Storing and transporting the vaccine at the correct temperature is essential for it to be effective. The problem is that routine vaccines normally need to be stored at temperatures between 2°C and 8°C. The Coronavirus vaccine has to be stored at minus 70°C.

South Africa and other African countries do not have the cold chain system in place to store and transport these vaccines at these extremely cold temperatures. The challenge with African countries is reaching the rural hospitals and clinics and the cost associated with this. South Africa cannot afford to purchase the equipment necessary to put the correct cold chain system in place.

As a result, Pfizer/BioNTech is considering vaccines in the form of frozen powders that a liquid can be added to. These freeze-dried vaccines can be stored at the temperatures South Africa is already prepared for.

However, the United Nations has three goals in place and their third goal is for good health and well-being for all people. They are calling for World Leaders to act together to ensure that all countries have the opportunity to provide vaccines for all their citizens.

Logistics

New DHL Global Forwarding Investment Into Johannesburg Facility

Bernita Marais

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While it is much to early to fully grasp the economic impact of the current Covid-19 pandemic DHL has invested R127-million in a new 13 000 m2 facility.  Twice the size of its current set-up and located next to the OR Tambo International Airport aimed at cementing its position within South Africa.

This new facility will consist of a 10 000 m2 warehouse that enables DHL Forwarding consolidation on all customer warehousing requirements. It will also boast will an exclusive and specialized cold chain facility that consists of three adjustable temperature-controlled refrigerators geared to handle life science and healthcare products in and out of South Africa.

The warehouse is also able to support other value-added services including cross-docking, storage for air, ocean, and road freight services, as well as a platform for breakbulk cargo.  The customised built on the world-class specification with the location only a short distance from the airport and arterial thoroughfares and upcoming industrial parks, will make this new facility a complete game changer for DHL within the country.

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Logistics

South Africa’s Vaccine Rollout and What to Expect:

Bernita Marais

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As mentioned by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night a deal was struck with the Serum Institute of India (SII) and will see South Africa get a million Covid-19 vaccine doses before the end of January and a further 500, 000 doses are due in February.

The President also mentioned that a comprehensive strategy has been put in place to reach all parts of the country.  It will also be far more extensive than the HIV treatment programme or even the national, provincial, and local elections in terms of the number of people who must be reached within a short time span.

Dozens of countries, both rich and poor, have started implementing a mass vaccination programme, including the US, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.  During the announcement it was also mentioned that the vaccination rollout will be divided into three-phases, in which phase one would prioritise frontline healthcare workers, phase two would target 16 million individuals that include essential service workers, people with comorbidities and the elderly, with phase three focusing on a further 22 million people.

A person who has been vaccinated has a much slimmer chance of becoming ill and dying from Covid-19.  When enough people have been vaccinated, we will reach what is knows as ‘population immunity’ meaning when enough of the population is immune to the virus to provide indirect protection to those who are not immune, reducing the spread and bringing the virus under control.

 The Department of Health is playing its cards very close to its chest and has been extremely reluctant to provide any logistical detail of how a vaccination rollout will work.

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Logistics

Beitbridge Chaos and What is Being Done

Bernita Marais

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With several deaths recorded at the Beitbridge border post, transport and freight forwarding industries have called for urgent intervention from the government.

With the COVID-19 regulations and restrictions that have been introduced at the beginning of December severely compromising the flow of traffic through both sides of the border as there is only one testing station with a single entry and exit point, creating a massive bottleneck that stretched from Musina in Limpopo on the South African side to the border post, and for more than 20km on the Zimbabwe side. This congestion aggravated by the annual traffic increase over the festive period had already severely impacted South Africa with lost revenue. During the first three weeks of December, the cost of these delays at Beitbridge was almost R88m per week; with queueing time delays for trucks amounting to R609m per week, this is a total loss of R2,092,860,000 Mike Fitsmaurice – CEO of the Federation Eastern and Southern Africa Road Transport Associations said.

Dr. Juanita Maree CEO for SA Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) said drivers that were queuing ran out of food and had no water for drinking or washing their hands and there were no toilet facilities available while criminals are looting and stealing from the trucks with drivers giving up hope of getting home to be with their families all while sitting in the unbearable heat of more than 40°C.

Key players in the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as well as The Federation of Eastern and Southern Road Transport Associations (FESARTA) and the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF), have called on government for a public-private partnership (PPP) to prevent future disasters like the chaos at the Beitbridge border post on the Zimbabwe border.

Maree sees this agreement is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can bring 30 million people out of extreme poverty and raise the income costs per day. Municipalities, government agencies and departments, as well as the private sector on both sides of the border, need to collaborate to create capacity and efficiencies to ensure that there are no bottlenecks at the border so that much needed economic growth can take place and trade and businesses are able to flourish. The situation faced is having a huge impact on supply-chains throughout Africa as much-needed goods – including essential items – are simply not reaching their destinations. It has become clear that there is no quick solution but if government is willing to partner with the private sector the smooth flow of goods and people across the border could be restored, preventing a humanitarian disaster and an economic collapse within the region.

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