After nearly a year of fighting the pandemic, the U.S. is starting to roll out COVID-19 vaccines. As daily infections continue to climb and lockdowns take their toll on people’s lives, an effective vaccine rollout becomes all the more critical. Technology — specifically the Internet of Things (IoT) — is helping authorities with that.
The health care industry understood the advantages of IoT devices long before the pandemic. These technologies had proved themselves in businesses across many sectors before COVID-19 tested their effectiveness. From an outside perspective, the role of IoT in vaccine rollout may not be immediately apparent. Here’s how these technologies are ensuring new vaccines work as they should.
More Efficient Production
One of IoT’s leading areas of implementation is in manufacturing, which has helped pandemic responses. Medical manufacturing centers have had their hands full, with some producing millions of tests, treatments, and PPE products each month. Maintaining these production levels amid widespread disruption is no easy task, but IoT technologies help.
IoT devices in a manufacturing plant can gather data that shows how the facility can become more efficient. In a 2019 PWC survey, 81% of industrial manufacturers said IoT had improved their efficiency. These gains help vaccine producers maximize their output, helping more people get vaccinated in less time.
Many facilities are now unable to have their full workforce in the building at once due to social distancing requirements. Automation has filled in the gaps for these plants, and IoT devices improve automated machines. With IoT connectivity, these machines can communicate with one another and respond to real-time changes, further improving efficiency.
Supply Chain Transparency
One of the most significant challenges facing vaccine rollouts is transportation and storage. Both of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. break down if they remain in warm temperatures for too long. Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept at -70°C, and Moderna’s at -20°C, meaning maintaining constant low temperatures is crucial.
Thankfully, many organizations already use IoT sensors to monitor temperature and other quality indicators. By adjusting these systems to match the vaccines’ requirements, companies can ensure their safety. They can remotely monitor temperature and other factors inside trucks and storage units to see if they need to change anything.
If temperature readings show the vaccines are warming, logistics companies can reroute trucks to arrive faster. Similarly, this data can inform crews if they need to fix storage equipment before they compromise the vaccines. Without these readings from IoT sensors, it would be far more challenging to ensure efficient vaccine delivery.
Managing Data After Injections
IoT devices can help after patients receive their vaccinations, too. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two shots, and patients can use wearables to remind them of this. Many people already use health wearables like smartwatches, so using these devices to track their vaccinations is straightforward.
Hospitals can use IoT devices to improve the efficiency of their record-keeping processes. The more efficient these practices become, the better hospitals will keep track of vaccination records. As a result, the overall vaccine rollout will be more effective.
As hospitals see more COVID-19 patients and more vaccine recipients, they can use their plasma to study antibodies. These antibodies can lead to new vaccines or better treatments, but plasma requires low-temperature storage like the shots. With IoT sensors, organizations have reduced spoilage and waste from plasma, ensuring a healthier future.
Crucial to the Success of COVID-19 Vaccine
The vaccines will likely require a long time to take full effect, and it will take careful planning and implementation to get there. The challenges ahead are daunting, but IoT technology provides a way forward. Thanks to these devices, manufacturers, hospitals, and authorities can ensure effective vaccine rollouts and hopefully end the pandemic.