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Vaccine Shipping: The Process You Need to Know

Resources > Vaccine Shipping: The Process You Need to Know
Vaccine shipping requires specific temperatures to keep vaccines potent and viable. Use R+L Global Logistics to handle your refrigerated shipping needs.
Published: April 13, 2020
Last Modified: August 28, 2023
Author: Ask Truckload

Vaccine shipping is often a time-sensitive endeavor, but that doesn’t mean you should rush through the process. Vaccines are easily damaged by improper storage temperatures, so if you don’t make the right preparations, you could end up losing an entire shipment. Even if you need to get your vaccines shipped quickly, you need to take the time to pack them properly and establish a way to monitor and maintain a safe temperature. 

Vaccine shipping requires specific temperatures to keep the vaccines potent. Different classifications of vaccines require different temperatures, and some are even freeze-sensitive. To ensure that your vaccines get delivered safely, you should ensure that you understand the cold chain logistics process and your role in maintaining it. 

Vaccine transportation is especially important in today’s current global climate. As drug companies continue to test potential COVID-19 vaccines, transport companies are lining up to the first in line to help with shipping the new miracle product. R+L Global Logistics is prepared to meet all vaccine shipping needs and play an essential role in getting the drug from manufacturer to market.

2020 Update: Coronavirus Drug Supply Chains

The global outbreak of the coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2, responsible for causing the disease COVID-19, placed tremendous pressure on supply chains everywhere—but particularly in the global drug supply chain. The virus was first spotted in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province back in December of 2019, and since then, it has developed into a worldwide pandemic with rare symptoms as severe as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and multiple organ failure. More common consequences of the disease include the development of pneumonia, and a severe immune system response that attacks healthy tissues in the lungs. 

COVID-19 spreads rapidly and there is still much that is unknown about it. With symptoms as severe as those, it’s imperative that governments, institutions, and corporations all work together to develop a cure, as well as medications to help treat individual symptoms of the disease. And, in order to do that, samples, medications, ingredients, syringes, laboratory equipment, and many other necessary supplies need to be transported as fast as possible. 

Drug suppliers need to move quickly to get medication to research facilities, and they depend on a speedy shipping service to deliver those drugs quickly. R+L Global Logistics is prepared to meet the needs of medical professionals, researchers, and drug suppliers. Our expedited shipping services can have things delivered in a matter of hours, which can make all the difference for critically ill patients awaiting experimental treatments. 

Experimental Drugs Used to Treat COVID-19

As of April 2020, there are no known drugs that are proven to be effective against COVID-19. However, there are many experimental drugs that are showing promise in clinical trials around the world. Other drugs are being tested as potential remedies for the various health complications that can arise as a result of the disease, such as pneumonia and ARDS. In addition to that, many pharmaceutical companies are working to develop a vaccine. 

Here are some of the most promising drugs for treating COVID-19 that are being examined at the moment:

  • Chloroquine – A malaria drug approved for emergency use and testing by the FDA
  • Hydroxychloroquine/Plaquenil – A drug used to treat lupus and arthritis, approved for emergency use and testing by the FDA
  • Favilavir – An antiviral drug approved for the treatment of symptoms in China
  • Remdesivir – An antiviral drug undergoing clinical trials in the U.S., China, and the U.K.
  • Lopinavir + Ritonavir – A combination drug used in HIV treatment that showed early promise in clinical trials in Thailand, but was later found to have no more benefit than standard hospital treatment
  • Favipiravir – A drug used to treat influenza in China and Japan, approved for clinical testing
  • Fingolimod -A multiple sclerosis medication that was approved for clinical testing in China
  • Methylprednisolone – An anti-inflammatory steroid being studied for effectiveness in treating COVID-19 related pneumonia in China
  • Bevacizumab – A cancer drug being studied in China for the treatment of acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) as a result of COVID-19
  • Hydroxychloroquine + Azithromycin – A combination of drugs that seems promising for killing the coronavirus in critically ill patients in France
  • Leronlimab – An HIV and cancer drug that has shown promise in managing dramatic immune responses in critically ill patients in New York and California
  • Ivermectin – An drug used for treating infections from parasites that has shown promise in in-vitro experiments in Australia
  • Sarilumab – An arthritis drug being tested as a treatment for ARDS in critically ill patients
  • EIDD-2801 – An oral antiviral medication approved for patient trials by the FDA

Many more experimental drugs and potential vaccines will be rolling out over the coming months, and supply chains need to be ready to distribute these drugs at a moment’s notice. These drugs also need to be transported to research facilities so they can commence testing. The less time researchers spend waiting on supplies, the sooner they can get back to conducting experiments on what could end up being the next big breakthrough drug. 

Getting supplies and medications delivered as quickly as possible is a potentially life-saving endeavor. We at R+L Global Logistics are humbled by the opportunity and responsibility of moving such vitally important freight, and we are willing to work with shippers by offering expedited, value-added shipping, consulting services, and much more. 

When delays can be deadly, you know you can rely on the logistics company with the on-time delivery record of more than 99%.

Regulations for Shipping Infectious Substances

Another thing to consider when discussing the supply chain for potential COVID-19 drugs is the transportation of live samples of the virus. There are several different situations in which live samples of the virus would need to be transported, such as with:

  • Diagnostic testing
  • Laboratory samples
  • Blood plasma from survivors and sufferers of the disease
  • And even prototype vaccines

These samples can be used as experimental cures and for in-vitro testing of new drugs, as well as for sending testing kits to labs. There are many cases in which live virus samples would be transported, and shippers and transport professionals alike need to be prepared to handle them. 

In order to handle potentially infectious substances, strict adherence to the CDC’s guidance should be enforced. This includes:

  • Enforcing infection prevention and control measures
  • Strictly enforcing hand washing and other sanitization practices
  • Distributing and mandating the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) among staff, volunteers, and any other personnel present on site
  • Educating all staff, volunteers, and any other personnel on-site on COVID-19 and its symptoms
  • Managing the environment to minimize the spread of the disease in the air and via person-to-person contact
  • Adhering to hygiene and cough etiquette standards, such as covering coughs, wearing face masks or respirators, coughing or sneezing into disposable tissues when possible, and washing hands after each cough or sneeze

The transportation of infectious substances is also subject to multiple regulations from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Contact us at R+L Global Logistics for more information on how to maneuver around these regulations and get your shipment of infectious substances on the road as soon as possible.

Packing Vaccines for Safe Shipping

Packing Vaccines for Safe Shipping

Vaccines have very specific packaging requirements to ensure that they stay intact and safe to use after being shipped any distance. The most important factors to consider when selecting a package for vaccines are insulation and structural integrity. 

Fluctuating temperatures can be damaging to the vaccines, so it is important to maintain a consistent temperature in a cooler or icebox. A sturdy plastic container with ice packs is usually sufficient as well, as long as it has satisfactory insulation properties. Cardboard with styrofoam can also work if the vaccines will be shipped only a short distance in moderate weather, but it depends on the vaccine. 

Vaccines are also often bottled in glass vials, bottles, or injectors, meaning that if they are allowed to shift around in transit, they may knock into each other and break. Take care to ensure that the bottles can’t move around in the box, and also ensure that the box itself is similarly secured in the truck or van when it is loaded. 

Did you know eggs are a common ingredient in vaccines? Learn more about the best way to ship eggs.

Labeling Vaccines for Shipping

Vaccines must be clearly labeled to ensure that they are treated with the proper care in shipping. 

The package that contains the vaccines, called the Secondary Packaging (the bottles themselves are the Primary Packaging), must have a label attached to the front or top. This label should be clearly visible and high contrast, so it is easy to notice and read. It should identify the:

  • Type of vaccine in the box
  • Manufacturer
  • Date of manufacture
  • Date of expiration
  • Quantity
  • Batch number
  • Presentation
  • Required storage conditions

The tertiary packaging—the outermost packaging, which contains the secondary boxes—must also be appropriately labeled. Tertiary packages need to have labels on all four sides, so the labels can be seen from any direction. In addition to all the same information that is also on the secondary boxes, these labels must also include labels such as “do not freeze” or “handle with care” if appropriate. 

If you’re shipping more than one box, then you will need to number the boxes. Shipping documents should be included in the box marked “1,” and that box should also be labeled with the exact phrase “Containing vaccine shipping documents.”

What Temperature Should Vaccines be Stored at?

Different vaccines have different storage requirements. Some vaccines are freeze-sensitive, while others can’t get much warmer than near-freezing temperatures. Depending on their requirements, vaccines fall into one of three classifications:

  • Class A: These vaccines are extremely heat-sensitive, and must be stored at a maximum temperature of 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Class B: These vaccines are heat-sensitive, but not to an extreme degree. A long as they are kept under the maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), then they will be fine.
  • Class C: These vaccines are heat-sensitive and freeze-sensitive, so they must be stored within the temperature range of 2-30 degrees celsius (35-86 degrees Fahrenheit).

All shipments of vaccines must have a temperature monitoring and tracking device installed in the packages or truck. This can help recipients determine if there was ever a point where the temperatures were unacceptable, and how long those incorrect temperatures were sustained. This is made easier if you utilize a refrigerated truck, since the proper temperature can be maintained and controlled throughout the entire vehicle. 

What is Cold Chain Logistics?

Cold Chain Logistics” is used to describe a process by which an entire supply chain, from manufacture to sale, is kept at a specific low temperature. Every single process, including packaging, shipping, and storage, is kept cool so that the product is never allowed to get too warm. This ensures freshness, quality, and safety in perishable products like food, produce, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. 

In the case of vaccines, maintaining the cold chain is absolutely imperative. Read on to learn what could happen if the cold chain isn’t maintained throughout the entire process. 

What Happens if Vaccines get Warm?

What Happens if Vaccines get Warm

If the cold chain is not maintained and the vaccines are allowed to get too warm, then they may lose potency to the point of becoming entirely useless. Improperly handled vaccines should be disposed of immediately, so failure to maintain temperature could result in thousands of dollars in losses. 

A person immunized with an improperly handled vaccine would not have a sufficient immune response to it, resulting in a failure to be properly protected against the disease it was intended to prevent. If the recipient is unaware that the vaccine wasn’t effective, then they would likely never pursue another vaccination, putting them at risk of potentially contracting the disease at some point. 

COVID Vaccine Shipping from an Industry Leader

R+L Global Logistics has the services and technology to make COVID vaccine shipping easy. We’ve transported vaccines and medicines for other partners and are to provide strategic shipping services now. We can combine our refrigerated freight services and expedited freight services to produce a customized solution perfect for vaccine transportation. We’re here to put our services and expertise to work for you.

Since the global pandemic has reached new heights, we’ve been prepared to provide strategic supply chain partnerships to get essential goods into the hands of medical professionals and front-line workers. We have proven our expertise as a top hazmat carrier when it comes to shipping isopropyl alcohol, have provided surgical mask freight shipping, and much more. 

Let us show you what it means to form a strategic partnership. From handling COVID vaccine shipping to getting other essential medical goods on the road, we’re here to help.

Shipping Vaccines with R+L Global Logistics

Vaccine shipping can be a confusing process, but with R+L Global Logistics on your side, you can ship anything with ease and confidence. Our team of vetted carrier partners is comprised of some of the most reliable carriers in the business, so you can rest easy knowing that your shipment is in good hands. We can offer expedited and refrigerated shipping options to get your shipment delivered fresh and on time, no matter what! Our 99.5% on-time delivery record speaks for itself.

If you have vaccines or anything else to ship, trust R+L Global Logistics to get it there on time! Reach out to us at (866) 353-7178 to request a freight rate quote for your shipment today!

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