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Covid-19 vaccine distribution to give cold chain logistics sector a boost


The largest vaccination drive is underway in India. Covid-19 vaccine distribution will require a robust logistics chain and a temperature-controlled environment that supports the life of the vaccine effectively to reach the remotest corners of the country. The government has budgeted over Rs 35,000 crore towards the Covid-19 vaccine and its distribution. Cold chain logistics players say this will give a significant impetus to their sector. However there is a growing need for precise cold chain solutions for several critical medical applications that stretch beyond the Covid-19 vaccination.

As per a report by Research and Markets, the Indian cold chain market was worth Rs 1,121 billion in 2018 and is further projected to reach Rs 2,618 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 14.8% during 2019-2024.

“The increased focus on cold chain in healthcare will probably double the growth metrics for the next two to three years. We have seen a tremendous increase in demand for our healthcare logistics services in the past year. In 2021 we expect high growth in volumes of healthcare cargo which the company will handle. We are confident to beat market growth pegged at 14% CAGR,” says Shagun Kapur Gogia, Founder and Director of Mumbai – based ColdStar Logistics.

The existing infrastructure in India has been built to cater to very specific food and healthcare needs. A cold chain specialist, ColdStar Logistics has been expanding its network during the lockdown. “As we have grown our network of healthcare logistics points across the country, we have had to refurbish and specifically design our offering to suit the ultra-low temperature and delicate vaccine distribution. This required careful recalibration of our services and reach while keeping in mind the changing parameters of the healthcare sector,” she adds.

“ColdStar’s network is designed and certified to handle the needs of the vaccination requirements. We cover in excess of more than 47 cities, over 28,000 pallet positions, deep air coverage, active and passive cooling solutions which are GSDP compliant and a state-of-the-art track and trace offering for life saving cargoes as standard issue,” she says.

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ColdStar is partnering with regional standalone unorganized infrastructure and asset owners to bring them under the fold of its technology layer to be able to deliver services in a seamless manner, which is mutually beneficial for all stakeholders.

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Shagun Kapur Gogia, Founder and Director of ColdStar Logistics.

The cold chain sector can be divided into two parts, pharma cold chain and non pharma cold chain. The pharma segment is mainly restricted to medicines or vaccines that also require a temperature-module during transportation while the non-pharma segment comprises supplies such as dairy products, perishable food items, yeast, even blood. A pharmaceutical company will never work with a company that is dealing with anything non-pharma for the risk of contamination which would lead to loss of efficacy of the medicine. The pharma cold chain segment has been growing rapidly in the recent past as most pharma companies are now looking at more and more of their products moving by cold chain.

Transporting vaccines

“The Covid-19 vaccine is just an addition to the already existing vaccines like rabies, hepatitis, the impact of this has a positive effect on the cold chain industry as in the future a lot of stakeholders are gearing up for an unbroken cold chain in terms of infrastructure upgrades like fixed cold warehousing, portable cold storages and reefer trucks as we have all realized that in the near future we must be able to smoothly move medicines across India without any temperature excursions,” says Kunal Agarwal, co-founder and director, Kool-ex.

The Mumbai-based cold chain logistics company was one of the first transporters in India to ferry the first consignment of the long-awaited Covid-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India‘s (SII) manufacturing facility in Pune.

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“Demand is up 10% as rollout of vaccine in terms of quantity has been slow, we have deployed a lot of vehicles for long distance movements as well as ground logistics for smaller air shipments at origin and destination airports and also provided vehicles to MEA for movement to nearby SAARC nations,” informs Agarwal.

“Without the Covid-19 vaccine we are at 25% growth this year and with the vaccine maybe 30%. If it is made mandatory for all pharma companies to move their products in temperature controlled vehicles then there is explosive growth expected, else the industry would grow by 15% this year,” he adds.

Kool-ex has a fleet of 400 which, Agarwal says, is more than enough to consume the Covid-19 vaccine demand as the government ramps up intake and inoculation.

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Kunal Agarwal, co-founder and director, Kool-ex.

The deliveries will enter a new phase shortly, with the vaccines being made available to the general public. The future plans of the cold chain logistics players are intertwined deeply with the growth which will come as a result of handling and distributing of “Made in India” vaccines both nationally and internationally.

In future Kool-ex plans to provide a one stop solution for the pharma industry by handling inbound logistics, out bound primary, secondary and last mile solutions, portable and fixed storage solutions along with data collection and batch wise traceability using sophisticated software and systems.

“We are building 11 mega pharma fulfillment centers across India to handle throughout. Each warehouse will be multi-client with 44000 pallet positions each having multiple temperature settings. This will change the way medicines are distributed within India,” informs Agarwal.

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“We are very well positioned, both in terms of infrastructure and network, to offer our services to this cause. Our future strategy is to be able to deliver temperature-controlled logistics in all forms and modes through the use of our proprietary technology and build value added solutions around it for our clients,” says Gogia.

Unlike many developed countries that are struggling with laying down policies and plans to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine, India has the benefit of already having a vaccine distribution mechanism in place that has been running for years. “Contrary to popular belief that our vaccination infrastructure is rudimentary, it is this very infrastructure that has been instrumental in India finally beating the curse of polio. India has the foundation in place and all we have to do is improve on it,” believes Gogia.

The technology developed behind the Covid-19 vaccine (mRNA) is going to revolutionise healthcare. Pharmaceutical companies are showing tremendous results in testing phases using mRNA technology to fight a number of cellular micro-organisms related diseases. It is likely that this technology will revolutionise the way diseases like cancer are treated. However, what this technology requires is precision cooling solutions. Precision cooling solutions have been offered by cold chain companies the world over for many years, but never at the scale that the Covid-19 vaccine demands. This is where the real impact to the industry lies.

“There is a growing need for precise cold chain solutions for several critical medical applications that stretch beyond the Covid-19 vaccination. These include vaccine administration centres, blood banks, organ storage banks, eye banks, sperm banks, stem cell banks, and the pharma cold chain, including testing laboratories etc. There are applications in animal husbandry, like poultry farms and fisheries which also require precise cooling and storage,” says Gogia.





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