COVID-19 vaccines are almost ready, but are distribution sites?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Anticipation is growing as three pharmaceutical companies say they have vaccines, which their research says is highly effective against the coronavirus.

While the military is gearing up for what they call Operation Warp Speed to distribute one or more vaccines, once approved, others are scrambling at the local level to give the series of shots.

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The scale of vaccinating millions of Americans as vaccine supplies become available will be an unprecedented challenge. It makes logistics critical at the local level, which has been dubbed The Last Mile. With our population of 330 million people, it's going to put planning and execution to the test.

"Every single testing center needs to convert into vaccination center to be able to support the volume we're looking at right now," said Pouria Sanae, CEO at San Francisco based Ixlayer.

The logistics will be mind-boggling because of the vaccines' ultra-low temperature storage requirements. For companies like Ixlayer, whose platform is helping more than 300 agencies coordinate COVID-19 testing programs, it's all about the last mile.

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The last mile includes the military, government and first responders, hospitals, public health clinics, pharmacies, mobile sites and large employers that will give the vaccinations to priority groups, which are still to be determined.

Each site has to comply with patient confidentiality, record keeping, scheduling appointments for the second required dose, and post-vaccination monitoring. The most critical aspect could be handling the vaccine itself.

Sanae listed these challenges:

"Scan a vaccine to be able to see how long the vaccine has been outside of storage. How long has it been in the cooler? What are the criteria for a specific vaccine? How long does it take for that vaccine to expire?"

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Each of the prospective vaccines has different storage requirements and different intervals for the second dose. All of this is far more complex than just doing COVID-19 testing. So. specialized training also will be needed as well.

"If I went back in January and asked you, would you be confident in offering a COVID-19 testing in a parking lot, the answer would be 'no,'" suggested Sanae.

A number of companies plans to offer logistical support for the last mile. The CEO at Ixlayer says to set aside competition and just execute. The mission is to curb the pandemic.

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