South Africa could use the latest technologies to ensure the speedy and effective rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
This is according to Webfleet Solutions Sales Director for South Africa Justin Manson, who told MyBroadband that technology could help ensure vaccines get to their destinations on time and in a good state.
“I certainly think that technology could help them in distributing, in making sure that this stuff is getting where it’s supposed to be, when it’s supposed to be there,” Manson stated.
Manson said the first major challenge with the vaccine rollout in South Africa will be security.
This is a reality given the monetary street value the vaccine is expected to have due to its initial scarcity, coupled with South Africa’s major crime problems.
“If you take the number of vaccines coming in versus the population, it does seem like its relatively small quantities,” Manson said.
“I think that security will be a bit of an issue – just protecting the stock and making sure it gets where it needs to get to,” he added.
The second major obstacle will be ensuring immaculate temperature control with the transit and storage of the vaccines so that they don’t get spoiled.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine which is currently favoured for use in South Africa, as well as the Moderna vaccine, need to be kept at temperatures of between 2-8 degrees celsius to remain viable.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be maintained at temperatures between -25 and –15 degrees celsius.
Manson said that while the vials themselves in which the vaccines are transported may come with temperature sensors, the need to monitor the temperatures of the refrigerators themselves is also evident.
“If you are transporting them and that truck or vehicle isn’t able to maintain the right temperature, you are going to have a whole bunch of spoiled vaccines,” Manson stated.
How technology can help
Manson said even using small pieces of data such as live road traffic could have significant knock-on benefits in a successful rollout.
“If you are distributing and you’re going into a metro area and you know that there is a lot of congestion on that particular stretch of road at that particular point in time, you can reroute that vehicle so that it doesn’t get stuck in traffic,” Manson said.
This way, there there is less risk of failure of the refrigeration units and the temperature going up, resulting in a spoiled batch of vaccines.
In addition, Manson said there were technologies that could allow fleet managers to accurately monitor temperatures at distance, providing the temperature of a refrigerating unit at any time.
“If there are any problems and if there is a variance in temperature from where it should be, you can act on it and act on it quickly,” Manson said.
This could allow the truck to be diverted to a nearby facility where cold storage is available for temporary placement.
Webfleet also offers solutions that can monitor the state of any system with an engine attached to it.
“We do have clients with big refrigerator trucks who are also using it on the engine running those refrigerators so that they can monitor the hours, they can check when they need to be serviced, and also if there are any problems with them,”
Tracking a stolen asset
When it came to addressing the possibility of theft, Manson stated that it was important to note the typical modus operandi of potential robbers in South Africa.
“Quite often what happens when a truck gets hijacked, it’s not being hijacked for the horse, it’s being hijacked because of what is inside the trailer,” Manson said.
“A lot of these syndicates, all they will do is they will come with their own horse, they will disconnect the trailer, hook it up to their horse and off they go,” he stated.
“Very often there is no asset tracker in that trailer, so you have no visibility of it,” he added.
For this reason, Manson said it was important that asset tracking solutions be placed within the trailers themselves, to allow law enforcement or security to chase down stolen vaccine loads.