Appointed by the UK Government to assist with the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to remote and hard-to-reach locations across the world, Crown Agents delivered its 300,000th vaccine dose to Eastern Caribbean island Anguilla on March 31st.
Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands also received deliveries this week. The logistics were managed by Crown Agents’ award-winning supply chain experts, who have been successfully overcoming complex challenges since vaccine operations began in January 2021. For instance, the Pfizer vaccine can only transition from freeze to thaw four times before it becomes unusable (three of which have already happened by the time it is shipped).
David Quinn, who leads on COVID-19 vaccine logistics, called the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine “one of the greatest logistical challenges of our time”:
He said: “In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, you are building an ultra-cold supply chain that didn’t exist before and you are doing it on a global scale. Timing is everything: From origin through to its final destination freezer, the Pfizer vaccine can only be maintained at the required temperature in transit for 84-hours. This means timings of logistics at every point of the supply chain have to be carefully coordinated to avoid the vaccine spoiling. In addition, the vaccine needs to be moved in accordance with strict MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) guidelines which is a highly regulated procedure. This is even more challenging during a global pandemic, where border closures are always imminent. To succeed in this difficult environment, a strong global network of reliable supply chain experts is key.”
Crown Agents’ supply chain teams have significant experience in meeting the unique needs of Caribbean countries. The organisation has previously provided the islands with vital support during several emergency situations: During both Hurricane Irma and Maria, Crown Agents was responsible for shipping over 827 tonnes of humanitarian supplies to eight countries within hours of the hurricane making landfall. Crown Agents was also appointed by the Caribbean Development Bank in response to COVID-19 to deliver $3 million worth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to 14 Caribbean countries in 2020.
In the global race to secure doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Crown Agents is committed to ensuring no country is left behind. Whilst 15 Caribbean nations are due to receive COVID-19 vaccine deliveries through the COVAX Facility, Crown Agents stands ready to provide additional support as needed. Crown Agents’ will continue to apply its experience to the challenges governments across the region face to support with COVID-19 vaccine supply and distribution.