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RFID is Strengthening the Cold Chain

by Samantha Kalany

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

RFIDRFID plays a huge part in adding to the supply chain, from every point of its lifecycle. In the most current times, there is a very important parcel traveling to and from hospitals and healthcare centers, and that’s the hope that is brought along with the COVID-19 vaccine itself, but also the vials in their specific refrigerated containers. These vaccine vials are thermos-sensitive and must be stored at their appropriate temperature, so to not spoil before they are injected into someone’s arm. As nations’ government organizations begin to unfold the COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts, they must first consider how to implement cold chain management to ensure that the vaccine is transported effectively and safely to its destination. Clinicians must administer the vaccines as efficiently as possible, while managing multiple problems that come down the line such as, counterfeit products, expired vaccines, dilution errors, and temperature violations

Cold chain management is defined as the maintenance of the required refrigeration levels for the highly temperature sensitive coronavirus vaccines, as they make their way through the manufacturing, storage, transportation, and distribution processes.  Throughout this lifecycle there are many different parties involved, and with that, a level of cooperation and coordination is required to efficiently get the job done. RFID is able to monitor the handling and flow of these important parcels to ensure they are cared for and distributed in a correct manner.RFID

Vaccines on the Horizon

Traveling fleets are constantly relying on the fact that IoT has their back to ensure a complete visibility of cargo loads, maintain adequate temperature levels to preserve these shipments, minimize insurance premiums that are placed on vehicles, streamline handoffs, minimize detection, ensure compliance and so much more to look after drivers on their journeys. Real-time connectivity with drivers is key to helping prevent cargo spoilage and minimizing any loss of revenue that might occur so to quickly communicate that finding to the driver, so they might be able to save the unit from expiring.

RFIDBefore the vaccines reach a facility, providers could assist the process by deploying RFID tags with sensors that work to ensure that the critically important supplies are kept and stored at the right temperature, so no sample is a wasted vial. These sensor-oriented tags are embedded into the fibers of vial’s printed labels, collecting the essential data points necessary. Such RFID-based solutions are predicted to automate data collection regarding the administration of vaccines, while also monitoring the required temperature of a given vaccine, along with its authenticity, the expiration date, and whether or not it’s been diluted enough to be deemed alright to deliver to a willing patient.

Once the vaccine containers reach their destination point and is ready to be injected, the vial will be removed from the box and its tag ID will be scanned so that its details can be collected, along with its liquid and temperature levels. Many RFID tags will update the user and the manufacturer once the proper steps have been taken to ensure that the shot is ready to be given to a patient. RFIDRFID in a vaccine’s supply chain is expected to not only move vaccines along the way for administration, but to also aid those using products provided by multiple different vendors, to keep them organized essentially. These track and trace functionalities will help to ensure a positive experience for those who receive the vaccine, while also providing some peace of mind for the healthcare professionals in charge of administering the care.

Track & Trace Everywhere

Similar to how food is tracked and secured within the supply chain, these vials of important vaccine can go bad and spoil if not contained in the right environments. The Food Safety Modernization Act of the FDA ensures the safety of the food supply by shifting focus from responding to combination to also going as far as preventing it from happening. Additionally, the Sanitary Transportation of Human and animal Food section cited within the FSMA act affects those involved in the transportation of temperature-controlled foods and with this there are various provisions for the design of trailers, cleanliness standards, in-transit temperature requirements, training procedures, and of course data keeping stipulations.

It’s so important that the parcels traveling throughout the supply chain remain under constant monitoring, especially that of life-saving vaccines, such as the current is for the COVID-19 virus. A lot goes into protecting these shipments, and it all starts with advanced technologies such as IoT, RFID, and a well-managed fleet of vehicles ready to make that journey towards vaccinating the billions of willing individuals, world-wide.