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Lighthouse - September, 2020.

FROM ‘FREEZER FARMS’ TO JETS, LOGISTICS OPERATORS

PREPARE FOR A COVID-19 VACCINE

Logistics providers are building giant cold-storage facilities, or “freezer farms,” and lining up equipment and transportation capacity as they gear up for the rapid delivery of millions of doses of potential coronavirus vaccines worldwide.

Drugmakers have been racing to build supply chains for their coronavirus vaccine candidates, finding manufacturing sites, and ordering specialized production equipment. As some drugs advance to final-stage clinical trials, logistics providers are making preparations to deliver them securely.

The distribution operation—taking drugs from far-flung manufacturing sites to medical teams via warehouses, cargo terminals, airports, and final storage points, all in a matter of days—promises to be a logistics high-wire act with risks at every stage. Breakdowns in refrigeration equipment, transportation delays, broken packaging, or other mishaps could leave many thousands of doses useless.

Drugmakers with vaccines in final-stage clinical trials expect their products to require strict temperature controls. Moderna Inc. said it expects its vaccine to require minus 20 degrees Celsius storage. Pfizer Inc. said the vaccine it is developing with German partner BioNTech SE will probably have to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, plus or minus 10 degrees. AstraZeneca PLC said it expects the vaccine to develop with University of Oxford researchers to require refrigeration, but declined to give details.

Logistics operators have been expanding their refrigeration and freezing capabilities in recent years, particularly as the health-care industry has grown, and pharmaceutical transport has become a more significant business.

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