While scientists and pharmaceutical companies celebrate the achievement of developing a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, they know other considerable challenges such as distribution and storage are on the horizon.

The hurdle is to distribute millions of doses of vaccines while keeping the quantity extremely cold. To solve this problem, they got an assist from technology that has been transforming the foodservice industry for years.

As it happens with restaurants, breweries, or food transportation, temperature-monitoring technology in small hot and cold sensors helps companies such as Pfizer and Moderna ensure a safe journey from the factory to the pharmacy. The cold chain is taking the baton now.

Getting an Assist from Temperature Monitoring Tech

Pharmaceutical companies will be utilizing road and air modes of transportation and unique packaging and storage innovations to distribute the doses. The specially designed, temperature-controlled thermal shipping containers use dry ice to maintain the recommended storage temperature conditions for -70° C (-94° F) for up to ten days unopened.

The design of thermal shipping containers is not the only innovative aspect of the distribution process. GPS-enabled thermal sensors with a control tower will track each vaccine shipment’s location and temperature, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The GPS-enabled devices will allow pharmaceutical companies to prevent unwanted deviations from the extreme cold and act before they occur.

They Arrived. What Now?

When the doses arrive at the designated medical facilities, the job is complete. Correct?

Not quite.

A last-minute planning oversight threatened to disrupt the smooth rollout of the first COVID-19 vaccines. The issue was that Pfizer planned to disconnect the temperature-monitoring sensors on the containers once the doses were delivered, even though many medical facilities needed the special boxes to store the vials for up to 30 days. Without the monitoring system active, medical professionals would not know if the vaccine thawed too early, making it unusable.

To quickly solve the problem, the United States government’s Operation Warp Speed (OWS) signed a $25 million deal with the Icelandic company that created the temperature-monitoring platform for all Pfizer’s shipping containers. After signing the agreement, the protocol is once the container reaches its designation, Pfizer will turn off monitoring, and the federal government will simultaneously flip the ‘on’ switch.

More on Monitoring

Regardless of any planning snafus, the technology is revolutionary. Internet-connected cold chain sensors, probes, and heat-sensitive labels are all vital pillars in the distribution process. Many details of the temperature-monitoring systems have been around for a while, yet there are many brand new aspects. Below are two examples of how companies are reimagining existing temperature-monitoring capabilities.

  1. Varcode, a company which mostly served perishable food supplier before the pandemic, is working with two of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies involved in the coronavirus vaccine effort. Their labels track how much time the temperature in a container has fallen outside a specific range.
  2. Temptime, a company involved in other vaccine distribution such as polio, created heat-sensitive labels. The labels change color if they have been exposed to heat and used in the past for shipping polio and other vaccines.

Using Temperature Sensors in Your Business

You may be wondering how innovative temperature-monitoring temperature sensors impact your business. Still, the reality is that this technology can be used in more settings than vaccine monitoring and distribution. Many facilities, not just medical facilities, always manually monitor refrigeration systems. Manual processes make it nearly impossible to monitor equipment 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is time-consuming, labor-intensive work that often results in lacking operational efficiency and risk of non-compliance.

Just as the medical industry is leveraging sensor-driven solutions to solve their most complex problems, so is the foodservice industry. Proper refrigeration is crucial for ensuring the quality and safety of dairy, produce, eggs, meat, and other perishable food items. In a Bauen case study, we explain how our clients at the Lariat Lodge Brewing Company experienced first-hand what happens when refrigeration fails. The Bauen Group installed sensors in each refrigeration unit to automate the temperature-monitoring process, much like the systems involved in vaccine distribution.

If you are a business that needs refrigeration to succeed, consider building a sensor-driven solution for your operations. At The Bauen Group, our sensor-driven solutions go beyond foodservice and medical facilities. You can utilize a custom made solution for motion detection, door monitoring, pest control, carbon dioxide detection, and more. We value you and your customers’ safety and success and are ready to help you drastically improve your processes.

The Bauen Group is a team of professionals that see solutions and opportunities where companies see challenges.

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