Two companies on Wednesday disclosed their preparations for cold storage and transportation of COVID-19 vaccines following the successful trial of several drug candidates.
Healthcare provider Zuellig Pharma said it would aggressively expand its cold storage warehouse capacity in key regional markets over the next 12 months including those in the Philippines in preparation for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“COVID-19 has severely tested our operations over these past few months, but it has also presented opportunities for transformational change at Zuellig Pharma. We are focusing on innovation to lead the transformation of the healthcare system. At the same time, we are working closely with governments, non-government organizations and manufacturers across the region to understand their needs and plan for the necessary logistical infrastructure in preparation for the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Zuellig Pharma chief executive John Graham.
“We have brought forward our expansion plans to ensure that the vaccine will be accessible to those who need them most and are able to ramp up capacity quickly when needed,” said Graham.
The company said that in the Philippines, it strengthened its capacity to store products at -20 degrees Celsius and adding 10 more medical-grade freezers to augment existing capacity in -80 degrees Celsius storage. It will also add five new cold chambers in the Philippines including three in Manila, and one each in Cebu and Davao starting January 2021.
The company recently opened the new Metro Drug national distribution center in September in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
The 25,000-square-meter facility is equipped with automation and energy efficient functionalities, including 10,000 square meters of solar panels, LED intelligent lighting and a water-chilled cooling system. It is also the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified warehouse.
Meanwhile, Centro Nippon Fruehauf Cooltech Inc. said it would develop a new type of refrigerated vans capable of transporting COVID-19 vaccines in case the vaccines will be locally available soon.
A joint venture between local truck body builder Centro Manufacturing Corp. and Japan’s Nippon Fruehauf Ltd., CFCI announced the conduct of a study with partners in Japan.
“Studies have shown that these vaccines will have to be transported and stored in very low temperatures ranging from -20 to -80 degrees Centigrade. The studies also indicate that otherwise, these vaccines will spoil and will be ineffective. The problem is that current ref vans can only consistently maintain a storage temperature of -20 degrees Centigrade,” said CFCI sales manager Vic Belisario.
He said that overland, the vaccines will have to be transported by ref vans from the airports to the cold storage facilities.
“Later on, these will be brought to either the vaccination centers or the airports for shipment to the provinces. Then in the provinces, ref vans will also be needed to move the vaccines from the airport to either the provincial cold storage facility or the vaccination centers. CFCI and our Japanese partners are thus studying what could possibly be done to help in the transport solution to the COVID-19 vaccine logistics,” he said.
CFCI manufactures insulated sandwich panels which will be used to assemble dry vans and temperature-controlled vans or ref vans like chillers and freezers. In 2020, the company started manufacturing in its new 1-hectare plant at the Sterling Technopark in Carmona, Cavite.
CFCI production manager Edd Nieva said the company was in a very good position to develop ref vans for COVID-19 vaccine logistics banking on its capability to customize ref vans to the preference of clients.
“We have now developed ref vans for Isuzu, Hino, Fuso, Foton, Hyundai and Kia. We have re-engineered our ref vans to handle the ref system of either Mit-Air, Denso, Carrier and Sanden. We have also asked them to consult with their principals on a special ref system for Covid 19 vaccines,” said CFCI production manager Edd Nieva.