This year brings with it the hope that life will return to normal, from being able to go back to the office and send children to school to being able to travel and socialize again. To ensure these activities are safe, enough people need to get vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) and clinics need to keep up with demand by ensuring efficient vaccine stock management systems.
Related: Vaccine Storage Guidelines for Optimal Safety and Effectiveness
It is thought that we need 75 to 85% coverage by mid-year to reach a herd immunity level that would allow a sense of normalcy by the end of 2021. Read on to learn how multiple COVID-19 vaccines, different storage requirements, and social perception will add to the challenges of vaccine management this year. The good news is that there is a way for health practices to overcome these obstacles more easily.
1. Demonstrating the Importance of Vaccines
The COVID-19 vaccination program is more complex and on a greater scale than anything we’ve ever experienced. By comparison, the flu vaccine is a success with around 40 to 50% coverage. In the US alone, we will need to administer over 100 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines to reach the required herd immunity level to end this pandemic. Although walk-ins make it easier for members of the general public to get vaccinated and can ensure higher rates of immunization, this may not be an option for the COVID-19 vaccine due to limited stock, social distancing requirements, and state communication and regulations.
The key to encouraging the population to get vaccinated will be through advocacy and awareness campaigns. This is essential for any vaccination program, but especially the COVID-19 vaccine. Fear of these new vaccines and misinformation about them could result in patients opting out and slowing down the coverage needed for success. As a practice, you have likely felt the strain from the pandemic and are working hard to secure the vaccinations that will put it to an end. Promoting the importance of immunization and easing concerns can ensure your patients make and keep their appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.
2. Managing Multiple Vaccine Manufacturers
In addition to flu vaccines, Vaccines for Children (VFC), and other vaccines, there are multiple COVID-19 manufacturers to manage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already authorized and recommended three vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) and there are multiple other vaccines in development. In the end, there could be more than half a dozen COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers.
Each of these manufacturers has created a vaccine that requires a different storage temperature and either one or two doses within a specific timeframe. Tracking lots is part of any vaccine stock management program, but with the limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccines it will be even more important to know how many doses are available at your practice at any time. Being able to move vaccines around when there isn’t a steady supply will be essential to issuing booster doses to the right patient at the right time. The two-dose requirement is even more stringent when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, adding yet another challenge for practices.
COVID-19 vaccine recipients will also need to be proven eligible based on their age, occupation, and preexisting conditions and according to the phased allocation plan. Practices will need to schedule appointments and follow-ups with the utmost care, all while maintaining compliance and performing all their other health services.
3. Keeping Vaccines Safely Stored
Like over 90% of vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines need to be stored at specific temperatures to remain safe and effective. Balancing different vaccine temperature needs from refrigerated (between 2 and 8°C) through frozen (between -15° and -25°C) to ultra-cold (between -60° and -80°C) will become complicated yet critical at your practice. Preparation and staff training on the new COVID-19 vaccines will be necessary for effective storage and handling.
Practices may need multiple units to accommodate the larger inventory and different temperature requirements of their vaccines. What’s more, each of these units must provide accurate temperature control and monitoring to prevent temperature excursion events that can damage the vaccines. Unfortunately, many vaccine stock management systems require users to store, track, and monitor inventory manually, which takes time and makes it difficult to scale. These legacy systems are also subject to human error and mechanical failure.
With advanced cold storage systems, vaccines can remain effective without any manual efforts until patients are ready and allowed to get them. This can ensure peace of mind and extra time for both patients and practices during the busy COVID-19 vaccine rollout period.
How Your Practice Can Overcome These Challenges
You need to consider how your practice will manage and store your vaccines as safely and effectively as possible. The key to this is a centralized system that allows you to automate the entire vaccination process, from receipt to patient administration, so you can focus on patient care and vaccine advocacy.
The AccuShelf Inventory Management System allows you to manage and monitor vaccines across various storage temperature requirements with ease. The technology captures the lot, expiry, and dose of every vaccine through a wireless scanner. Automatic updates help you keep track of puncture times, dose counts, and second shots, as well as low or expiring inventory. Integrated digital data loggers can be attached to any cold storage device to provide real-time temperature monitoring and alerts. With cloud-based reports and complete vaccination data, your inventory is always stored and administered correctly.
The AccuVax Vaccine Management System also helps you overcome the challenges of COVID-19 vaccine storage and workflows. As a purpose-built vaccine system and emerging standard in vaccine stock management, this technology guarantees temperature control for frozen and refrigerated vaccines. With a built-in battery pack, you can ensure your vaccines are still kept safe for up to 15 hours after a power outage. Real-time inventory tracking helps you monitor every single vial and stay on top of compliance.
Find out how you can prepare for the COVID-19 vaccine and improve your vaccine stock management in 2021. Request a demo now to see how the AccuShelf and AccuVax systems can help your practice get ready for the rollout.