Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Covid-19 Vaccine Cold Chain

On September 18, 2020 my article, "Keeping coronavirus vaccines at subzero temperatures during distribution will be hard, but likely key to ending pandemic," was published in The Conversation. I believed that it was imperative (and my Editors at The Conversation agreed) to start speaking to a broad audience on the necessity and importance of the cold chain to the effective distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines that are presently under development by major pharmaceutical firms.  There was much discussion and coverage in the press about the manufacturing aspects of the different vaccines as well as the R&D involved. However, there was very little being discussed about the distribution issues.  It was imperative to me  that emphasis (and associated challenges) on getting the approved vaccines ultimately from point A (manufacturing) to point B (point of administering of the vaccine), with the quality preserved in the transportation and distribution process, be brought to everyone's attention.

I have conducted research on perishable product supply chains from food to pharmaceuticals and even co-authored a book on the topic.

There are now 4 major Covid-19 vaccines that are far along in the trial phases and this is quite promising, with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines requiring storage below freezing (Pfizer's to the extreme temp of -94 F) with those of Astrazeneca's and John & Johnson's needing to be in the range of 2-8 degrees C, which is standard for many vaccines. 

I have published multiple articles in The Conversation, but this one generated the greatest number of comments and even emails to me from around the globe, which continue. Clearly, the article that I wrote had touched on a very important issue, and I am also grateful that the article got reprinted in multiple media outlets.

Since the publication of my article, much has happened, and the momentum keeps on growing.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by David Williams and John Driscoll for their Care Talk podcast, the link to which is below. 


Lori Hinnant, who is an Associated Press journalist, based in Paris, subsequently interviewed me for a fabulous article, "Vaccine storage issues could leave 3B without access."  My colleague at the Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins, Tinglong Dai, was also interviewed for this article, which has been reprinted internationally in numerous outlets and also published in The Washington Post and ABCNews.

I have had additional interviews with journalists at The Wall Street Journal and am quoted in the article, "Covid-19 vaccines to be stored secretly under tight security," by Jared S. Hopkins on the security of the distribution of the vaccine. There is a slightly modified title in the hard copy version - a colleague kindly delivered his copy to my door!

I've done research with collaborators on freight security of highly value cargo and clearly the Covid-19 vaccines fall into this category!

And, on November 6, I will be featured on the NPR show The Pulse, based on an interview on the vaccine cold chain conducted by Alan Yu.

One of the goals of my Conversation article was to make the cold chain distribution issues more visible in order that appropriate preparedness measures would be taken, both nationally and globally, so that, once vaccines are approved, time is not wasted and the vaccines do not go to waste as well.

Many thanks to all those who have responded, including the amazing journalists, who continue to keep this important topic in the news!

And, just before publishing this blogpost, I received another inquiry from a journalist requesting an interview because of my article in The Conversation!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Thanks to the USC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society!

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being the first speaker in the virtual seminar series organized by the University of Southern California's Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS).  The title of my presentation was, "Game Theory Network Models for Disaster Relief," and my host was Professor Phebe Vayanos!

The talk was well advertised and it was a pleasure and delight to have participants viewing my presentation even from Mexico and India! It was very thoughtful for CAIS to open up the virtual seminar to the public. Terrific that also students and colleagues from UMass Amherst could view it.

The organizers of this series have posted the video recording on youtube, so that additional folks that are interested can see it:

And, luckily, we managed to conduct this event when we did, since two hours afterwards, we lost electric power due to a fierce windstorm that struck Massachusetts. We were without electric power and, hence, without Wi Fi, for 30 hours, signifying further the importance of research and practice surrounding all phases of disaster management, from preparedness and mitigation to response and recovery. Some of our neighbors are still without power and a neighbor was trapped in his car for 4 hours with trees and downed power lines in front and behind his vehicle. And, yesterday morning, we saw the Town of Amherst crew taking down with great skill an ailing tree so that it, too, would not fall and disrupt electricity and communications!