If the H1N1 VIRUS—better known as swine flu—becomes a global pandemic, then the "cold supply chain" will play a critical role in stopping the spread of the disease, says John Wilkerson, executive director of Bellwether Services, a consulting firm in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He believes that global operators of temperature-controlled logistics services will be key to a successful response to the swine flu outbreak.
A cold supply chain provides an uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities while maintaining a specified temperature range for a product. Since any swine flu vaccine or other anti-viral medications may have to be shipped to and distributed in hot climates, he observes, the product will have to travel in temperature-controlled conditions from origin to destination if it is to arrive undamaged and prove effective in treating patients.
In addition to the physical transfer of any vaccine, carriers and climate-controlled distribution centers will have to work together to ensure a secure chain of custody and accurate data on the vaccine's temperature history. "Cold chain planning, collaboration, and communication are critical to improving the response time [to a pandemic]," said Wilkerson.