COVID-19 vaccines have gone from development to rollout in record time. While their production timeline has been remarkably fast, distributing them to the billions of people who need them is still a challenge. In some areas, blockchain technology is making this process easier and more secure.
Given how widespread the virus is, these vaccines are in high demand. This demand, along with challenges in scaling up production, has led to vaccine shortages in many areas. The drugs’ extreme storage requirements and a growing risk of fraud make fast and safe distribution even more challenging.
Thankfully, cutting-edge technologies are helping improve this process. Blockchain has shown particular promise in vaccine distribution, with the potential to do more.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require sub-zero temperatures for storage and transportation. If they get too warm, they expire, so hospitals and logistics companies must ensure they stay cold. Blockchain-based tracking can provide fast, accurate data on storage conditions and location, helping these organizations ensure safe delivery.
Some hospitals have already implemented blockchain tracking systems to improve their tracking and recordkeeping. Since blockchains ensure no one can alter records, supply chains can be sure their data is accurate. They can check vaccine temperature accurately and quickly at any time.
With these systems, hospitals will know if there’s a problem with their storage solutions and act accordingly. Similarly, they can see shipment locations more accurately, helping them anticipate their supply and schedule an appropriate number of appointments. They can balance supply and demand better, reducing waste and managing patient expectations.
Given the high demand and low supply of COVID-19 vaccines, there’s a high chance of fraud. The FDA has already issued a warning about fraudulent treatments, including unauthorized vaccines. Health care organizations need to ensure they receive authentic vaccines, and blockchain can help.
Records on the blockchain provide a single source of truth for everyone involved, from hospitals to logistics companies. If companies assigned each dose or shipment a block after production, all stakeholders could track it throughout the entire distribution process. Anyone could easily verify a dose or shipment is what it claims to be.
Two tech startups have already designed such a system to make vaccine distribution more transparent. Even apart from fraud, this system ensures vaccination centers get what they ordered. They can verify they get the right amount from the right manufacturer.
Blockchains can also help in administering the vaccines and providing proof thereof. Some workplaces can make vaccinations mandatory since COVID-19 could present an immediate undue hardship. Blockchain-based vaccination records give employees undeniable evidence of their immunization and reduce the risk of fraud with paper documents.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two separate doses to work correctly. A blockchain-based vaccination scheduling and recordkeeping system would help hospitals and patients administer second doses. Records on the blockchain would show health care workers which dose a patient needs and help remind patients of their upcoming appointments.
Traditional digital records can provide a similar service, but they’re not as secure. Given the severity of the pandemic, people need the security benefits of the blockchain. In addition to providing a single source of truth, blockchains make fraud or hacking far less likely.
Many organizations and governments are struggling to distribute COVID-19 vaccines safely and efficiently. Some have discovered how blockchain can help, and more will likely follow. Technology has provided unique solutions to newly pressing challenges throughout the pandemic, and blockchain can do the same now.
2021 could be a launching point for blockchain technology. As more organizations use it in areas as crucial as vaccine rollout, more will realize its potential. Blockchain is already making the world a safer, more efficient place, and it’ll continue to do so in the future.