Health authorities, hospitals and drugmakers are taking numerous measures to ensure COVID-19 vaccines won’t be vulnerable to theft when they are released for distribution, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In the last five years, worldwide incidents of theft and counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products have risen nearly 70 percent, according to data from the Pharmaceutical Security Institute cited by the Journal.
Experts expressed concern that COVID-19 vaccines may be vulnerable to theft at weak links in the supply chain, such as distribution centers, truck stops and hospitals with weak security measures.
“We are appropriately paranoid about anything that has to do with either cybersecurity or physical security, and we are taking great precaution to ensure that these are safeguarded,” Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at HHS told the Journal.
Seven steps hospitals, drugmakers and other industry experts are taking to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are secure:
- Jefferson Health in Philadelphia said it plans to keep temporary subzero freezers for COVID-19 vaccines in rooms that have cameras, cages and require keycard authorization, Brian Swift, PharmD, the health system’s chief pharmacy officer, told the Journal.
- HHS has arranged for U.S. marshals to accompany shipments of vaccines once they’re authorized for distribution.
- Pfizer is using GPS software to track the location and temperature of its vaccine shots.
- The United Parcel Service said it plans to use a tracking tool that will tag shots the company is shipping so it can see where they are within 2 meters of their location, the Journal reported.
- Glassmaker Corning Inc. is equipping vials with black-light verification to curb counterfeits.
- In Illinois, local health officials intend to keep just enough of the vaccine to be used within two days to avoid theft.
- Several states have said that drugmakers or the government will ship the vaccine directly to hospitals and other vaccination sites to reduce the number of road stops, the Journal reported.
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