Blockchain will be an ‘essential’ and ‘integral’ tool in distributing a potential Covid-19 vaccine, according to an article published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
In a note published by Punit Shukla and Amey Raiput, WEF project lead and fellow for blockchain and digital assets, alongside Sid Chakravarthy, CEO at supply chain technology provider StaTwig, success in global distribution will require leveraging tools and capabilities such as blockchain in a way ‘never seen before.’
Geographical disparity is a major inhibitor to widespread rollout. Polio immunisations in India, for instance, took 16 years to cover the entirety of the under-five population in the country. WEF estimates that with an approved vaccine, close to 10 billion doses will need to be in the supply chain to cover the entire global population, assuming a 20%-30% loss in transit and storage.
Another potential roadblock is through political and economic machinations. The US, for example, has bought almost all of the next three months’ projected production of Covid-19 treatment remdesivir. WEF argues an ‘equitable’ supply chain is needed.
“There must be a global consensus on who should get it first, one not based on who can buy it first,” the note said. “Such an equitable supply chain can only be built on a doubtless, openly verifiable, consensus-driven system having immutable integrity of data with no single source of control.
“To achieve the global optimum, instead of a national or regional optimum, vaccine access will critically depend on an information system with the highest possible integrity, capable of avoiding forces of vested interest,” it added. “Thus, blockchain and distributed ledger technology will be essential for an equitable Covid-19 vaccine distribution.”
StaTwig has been part of an initiative testing a vaccine supply chain management platform which looks to give all stakeholders total visibility of vaccines at all levels and across all stages of the supply chain. The solution has been tested with UNICEF program teams in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as India.
Yet the key takeaway from the WEF note is that more needs to be done, also noting the importance of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in this effort. “Efforts to build an open system to track and trace every vaccine dose accurately and transparently will be required to build a global consortium of vaccine researchers, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, distributors, healthcare workers and governments,” the note explained.
“Blockchain technology allows us to do this at scale, building trust and transparency which will reduce the vaccine wastage rates, eliminate stockouts and ensure a truly equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine to the entirety of human population.”
For all the good intentions around blockchain technology for distribution, it must be noted that a Covid-19 vaccine remains hypothetical. More than 140 candidate vaccines are currently being tracked by the World Health Organisation (WHO), with only a handful so far having completed the first of three phases of clinical testing.
You can read the full WEF article here.
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