Vaccine rollout challenges foreseen in last mile logistics

Administration and delivery of vaccines will provide major obstacles in remote areas according to an associate professor at RMIT.

Director of the Global Transport and Logistics Research Group Victor Gekara believes serious consideration will need to be given to the location of distribution centres particularly in remote, regional and isolated areas in regard to points of vaccine administration.

“The biggest challenge regarding the transportation and distribution of the vaccine will be in the last mile,” he said.

Under the Federal Government strategy Australians will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in partnership with Oxford University, which is going to be manufactured locally.

At present the Pfizer Biotech drug made in the US and Belgium is not yet approved in Australia.

However, it’s likely to be the first COVID-19 vaccine to clear the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval process as it will be made available earlier albeit in a limited supply.

To date, initial clinical trials report an efficacy of 95 per cent and Australia has 10 million doses on order.

But the rollout logistically is further complicated by the fact that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines require two doses which are administered about three weeks apart.

Gekara, who has completed a PHD in international political economy, anticipates there will likely be issues in administering the COVID-19 vaccine outside of metropolitan zones despite broader regional areas commonly having low level cases or near no cases across Australia.

“Resourcing the logistics of transportation, delivery and storage during this period is therefore another important consideration,” he said.

“Logistically this is a very delicate operation. First, we are dealing with many variables and uncertainties. The different vaccines require different storage and transportation conditions, so it is a question of how we organise the logistics in such a way that the vaccines are transported, handled and delivered to each destination without compromising their integrity.”

“If indeed the effectiveness of the vaccines lasts six to 12 months, then we are in for a long and delicate logistical journey. The government needs to consider establishing permanent infrastructure for the long term.”