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Logistics complicate vaccine distribution for East Tennessee

From manufacturing to distribution, getting the COVID-19 vaccine to you is a tedious process.
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:10 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - From manufacturing to distribution, getting the COVID-19 vaccine to you is a tedious process.

“We’ve been very fixated on how to deploy the supply, but there’s just as much concern about how to get that supply to where the demand is going to be found,” said Tom Goldsby, a UT Supply Chain Management Professor.

There are steps to getting the vaccine into your arm. The first step comes from the delivery system, which was pretty busy over the holidays.

“The likes of UPS, FedEx were really pretty stretched,” exclaimed Goldsby, “That said, the first mile of distribution, which is covered by Operation Warp Speed and the federal government is intended to get those vaccines to the states. And then you have a hand off between the feds and the states in terms of where precisely the supply is going to be delivered.”

But it’s also tricky when it comes to storing vaccines.

Goldsby explained, “We really don’t have supply chains that were developed to handle products of that nature in large volume. And so that’s why there’s been so much concern about it.”

With the Pfizer vaccine stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the first of many challenges was safely transporting, storing and handling the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine can be stored at the same temperature as ice cream, which is why it can go to more rural places. Many pharmacies, hospitals and grocery stores can support storing it.

“The cities are more likely to have the amenities, that ultra-cold storage,” said Goldsby.

Then comes matching supply with demand.

Dr. Martha Buchanan explained in Tuesday’s health briefing demand will likely outpace supply for awhile.

“I’m like everybody else wondering hey when’s my number? When’s my turn? And it’s not abundantly clear to me when my turn is going to be,” questioned Goldsby.

He’s hoping for an answer as to when he can get his vaccine sooner, rather than later.

Goldsby explained, “We need to put that good planning to work. There needs to be precise execution and yes there will be those hiccups and we need to learn quickly from them and try to prevent those mistakes from happening again.”

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