The Hope Consortium, an Abu Dhabi-based global logistics collective, will use blockchain technology to keep tabs on the storage and supply of temperature-sensitive Covid-19 vaccines around the world, a virtual conference was told on Monday.
Blockchain – a public electronic ledger to create an unchangeable record of transactions – will help to overcome logistical hurdles that can pose a significant risk to the safe and speedy distribution of vaccines.
The digital record is time-stamped, allowing vaccine producers and delivery managers to control the logistical process.
It gives confidence to doctors that the vaccines they receive have been maintained at the right temperature throughout the process.
“Technology should be looked at as a must,” said Dr Noura Al Dhaheri, chief executive of Maqta Gateway, the shipment-tracking operator for Abu Dhabi Ports.
She was speaking at a virtual conference organised by the Hope Consortium, a group of partners set up to deliver Covid-19 vaccines globally.
“We have managed blockchain by using it for tracking containers in our existing supply chain," said Dr Al Dhaheri.
“These technologies are both scalable and flexible. So, they are suitable for the vaccine programme.
“I’m proud we have blockchain but pragmatically it is not the only way as we will be dealing with some areas that are still paper-based.
“Our expertise is about integration and that is not about using one source of technology over another,” she said.
Delivery supply chains have become even more vital during the pandemic.
It is not just the delivery of vaccines that will be central to the global recovery, but also other medical supplies, vaccines for other immunisation programmes and millions of personal protective equipment items.
The International Air Transport Association estimated that some 8,000 large aircraft will be required to transport vaccine doses around the world.
To do it safely will be one of the biggest challenges ever faced by the global air cargo industry.
Swiss firm SkyCell will provide temperature-controlled hybrid containers to the Hope Consortium to help in the delivery of vaccines to hospitals and clinics.
“Our job is to protect the packaging onwards to the distribution site, all the way to the doctors and then the patient’s arm,” said Richard Ettl, co-founder and chief executive of SkyCell.
“Temperature is very important in Africa and the Middle East and Asia where there are huge populations in need of vaccines.
“Adaptability is the biggest challenge for this kind of mass distribution programme.
“We have never had this challenge in mankind before to roll out a vaccine this quickly," Mr Ettl said.
“The faster we can distribute them, the faster we will bring Covid-19 under control.”
The Hope Consortium aims to deliver billions of Covid-19 vaccine doses around the world by the end of the year.
It is run by the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, Etihad Cargo, Abu Dhabi Ports Company, Rafed, part of ADQ, and SkyCell.