IoT & blockchain to revolutionize safety, traceability, and monitoring of global vaccine shipments

26 Mar, 2021

Difficult periods get out the best, and unfortunately the worst of people. And this pandemic has confirmed it extensively. Thousands of solidarity initiatives flourished around the globe to help healthcare workers, ills suffering from coronavirus and the less fortunate that lost their jobs due to the consequent economic crisis.

Theft of goods in the supply chain

However, many others found in the tragedy the opportunity to speculate, steal and counterfeit. Last March for instance, right when the virus and the domestic supply psychosis started spreading across Europe, two trucks full of £13,000 worth of toilet paper were stolen from a depot in UK. (1) Later the same month a FFP2 mask delivery destined to Germany disappeared at an airport in Kenya (2) and the same thing happened to a 3 million USD shipment of respirators headed for El Salvador. (3)

Vaccines traceability in the supply chain

Now that a primary (and extremely valuable) good like a vaccine is being shipped across continents, the risks increase exponentially. From production sites, via truck, aircraft, ship, and rail to hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies there are numerous delicate steps and many variables to monitor. When a single shipment could be worth up to 70 million USD it’s absurd not to think that no one would try to make a huge heist. In fact, already in December, Interpol had issued a global warning, alerting governments that criminal organizations were planning to infiltrate or disrupt vaccines’ supply chains. (4)

Security measures for the transport of goods

Therefore, a lot of precautionary measures have been put in place to prevent safety incidents. Trucks moving vials for instance, are escorted by armed guards during the most delicate transport operations and can stop only at preapproved stages of their route. Their doors are secured with digital locks that can only be opened remotely, and their insides are equipped with wireless sensors to transmit changes in temperature, light, and location. This allows to assure product quality and to track entire potential stolen cargoes. (5)

Technological structures to protect and monitor supply

However, despite these protections, given the products’ sensitivity, even the slightest tampering could ruin an entire shipment. This means that not only it is fundamental to avoid thefts, but also to prevent any attempt that could threaten the usability of the whole batch. For this reason, the Swiss company Authena developed an end-to-end technology framework that provides each product with a digital blockchain-passport certifying origin, integrity, and authenticity. This is generated through a combination of interactive seals to be applied both on packs and single vials and IoT wireless devices to constantly monitor location and environmental conditions. Plus, accessing a powerful dashboard, brands and public health authorities can accurately monitor the distribution and the administration campaign in each country in real time.

Alessandro Tacconelli

Authena end-to-end traceability & anticounterfeiting technology for pharma