One year later: COVID-19 vaccine distribution and technology’s impact


Today, March 11th, marks the day last year that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. For many of us, it also is the week that our lives took a pause, as the virus made inroads into offices, homes, and public spaces.  

As we all know, COVID-19 has had a staggering impact, as millions of lives have been lost, employees have lost their jobs, businesses have shuttered, and people have been isolated from one another.  

But, over the last several months, we have learned a great deal about the possibilities of science and how technology can help bring people together to collaborate and solve problems. This has instilled hope in many of us.  

Last year, when Controlant was approached by Pfizer global, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other Operation Warp Speed stakeholders, to support the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, we saw it as an enormous privilege to work to solve one of the greatest challenges of our time. 

We have seen tremendous efforts across the COVID-19 vaccine distribution channel with parties coming together to help solve a common goal for humanity. We first learned this lesson during our work on H1N1 vaccine monitoring in 2009, and it continues to serve as Controlant’s guiding principle since we started: digitally connect the end-to-end supply chain, ensure patient safety, and reduce waste.  

Vaccine integrity has never been more crucial as millions of COVID-19 treatments have already been shipped, and billions will be shipped over the next 12 to 24 months. Many suppliers from all parts of the distribution chain—from makers of thermal packaging, data loggers, and supply-chain visibility systems to dry ice suppliers and airlines—have stepped up to prioritize vaccine distribution, and in some cases, modified existing technologies to meet the requirements. 

Our real-time, IoT and cloud-platform-enabled technology was designed to measure various scenarios that would require escalation, like products being delayed, pallets being split up or arriving at the wrong location, a potential security issue, or issues at borders. Our 24/7 Monitor and Response Service (MARS) team works in the background to facilitate corrective action if escalations occur.  

In tandem, Controlant has worked extensively with stakeholders and designated sites to create an automated, onsite monitoring control tower, providing centralized services to facilitate responsiveness and corrective action, per the vaccine manufacturer’s instructions and according to specific business rules and regulations. Multiple parties involved with the distribution and onsite process are provided with pertinent information and alerts, automatically and as they happen, so that the vaccines can be protected, helping to ensure public safety, mitigate financial losses, and expedite vaccine administration. 

As a result of these efforts and extensive collaboration, partners have been able to keep the excursion rate extremely low. To date, 99.99% of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been successfully delivered to the receiving sites. 

Under normal circumstances, the new pharmaceutical distribution models currently in place would have taken years to accomplish, rather than only five months. This new model that has been achieved has included a new depth of collaboration, alignment, processes, and data sharing across multiple internal and external stakeholders—such as carriers, manufacturers, governments, health systems, and others—integrating multiple control towers and implementing technology-enabling responsiveness on a level never witnessed previously. In the coming months, we will likely see more lessons learned from the distribution. 

One thing I think we can agree on, as an industry, is that we are embarking on something entirely new, which will have significant implications for patients, consumers, businesses, and the environment.  

Until we are all vaccinated, this future is serving as Controlant’s north star.