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The logistics of mass vaccination in Bangladesh and beyond

The logistics of mass vaccination in Bangladesh and beyond

29 September 2020

Bangladesh has one of the largest pharmaceuticals and vaccine industries in the world, but, like many countries, doesn’t have the capacity to deliver fast-track mass vaccination.

To tackle this, scientists from Bangladesh, Birmingham and Edinburgh, are working together on a new UKRI-funded project that will help countries prepare for the sustainable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

This is one of 20 new projects announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in a quest to develop solutions that will mitigate the short and long-term consequences of the pandemic.

The new COVID-19 awards, funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund, enables us to bring together UK researchers with In-country experts whose knowledge and expertise are vital when creating sustainable solutions that work all around the world.

Read about the other COVID-19 awards here

The challenge of cold-chain

Part of the challenge with this project is the management of the ‘cold-chain’. A ‘cold-chain’ is a supply chain that must always be temperature-controlled; it is vital for the transportation of food, medicine and heat-sensitive produce.

A COVID-19 vaccine will need a cold-chain to survive its travels around the world and across countries. Led by Toby Peters from the University of Birmingham, cooling and logistics experts from Heriot-Watt University, the University of Birmingham, BRAC University in Dhaka and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) will assess Bangladesh’s cold-chain framework and create a roadmap and model for global COVID-19 vaccination.

The arrangement of a national temperature-controlled supply chain is no easy feat and can include many different steps including packaging, distribution, holding, bulk storage and local storage.

Professor Farzana Munshi of BRAC University, said: “This project will assist policymakers in designing policies on the most sustainable interventions for the medical supply chain at regional, national scale for COVID-19 but also other potential future natural disasters and epidemics."

Dr Bing Xu from Heriot-Watt University added: “We need to develop a whole-system approach for mass-scale COVID-19 vaccinations.

“There is also an urgent need to identify financing gaps to ensure COVID-19 vaccines can be adequately stored, transported and delivered to the population.

“This will involve exploring suitable financing channels to fund mass vaccination without impacting any country’s current immunisation programmes.”

Distributing a COVID-19 vaccine

Professor Toby Peters said: “Rapid and efficient mass vaccination is the only way forward, making our upcoming work critical – not just for Bangladesh, but many other low and middle-income countries.

“Sustainable cold-chain development will support Bangladesh’s economy and help to support existing immunisation and cold-chain programmes, as well as a COVID-19 vaccine. This work will help create a blueprint and model for an efficient delivery mechanism to ensure that the vaccine will be distributed globally.”

The findings will be made available to other countries to help public health planners evaluate their best options for creating sustainable temperature-controlled supply-chains for health and medical supplies in epidemics and natural disasters.

Read more about their project here