RIT logistics expert on getting the vaccine to us: 'It's going to be like 78-dimensional chess'

Berkeley Brean
Updated: December 03, 2020 11:07 PM
Created: December 03, 2020 09:09 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Just in New York, we are going to need 28 million doses of the vaccine. That's two shots for 75% of the state population. 

And those vaccines have to stay freezing cold and the injection has to happen quickly. 

RIT professor Steven Carnovale, who teaches supply chain management, identified major logistical concerns.

"It's going to be like, not three-dimension chess," he said. "It's going to be like 78-dimensional chess."

Carnovale picked two big problems. 

First: A national shortage of transportation and warehouse space. 

Second: The vaccines have to be stored at arctic temperatures. 

Brean: "If the White House picked up the phone and called you and said, Steve, design us a system to get the vaccine to people, what's the first thing you would do?"

Steven Carnovale, Prof. of Supply Chain Management RIT: "First thing is a program or a system to be able to track and monitor the temperature."

The drug makers appear to have thought of that. 

At his late afternoon briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo showed us the type of vaccine box Pfizer will deliver to New York in two weeks. 

The boxes come with GPS and temperature trackers and dry ice to make sure the vaccines stay cold. 

The governor says the box contains 5,000 doses. 

"This is the weapon that is going to win the war," Cuomo said. 

The first doses go to nursing homes and health care workers. 

Carnovale says that's good because it'll work like a soft opening. 

Carnovale: "So that's going to limit the number of people who will be eligible. So that makes it a much more manageable task to be able to get the vaccine to them."

Brean: "Based on your knowledge of the system of delivering goods, do you think vaccines could be delivered to the average person by say, Memorial Day?"

Carnovale: "I think it's possible. I think mid-next year is probably a reasonable target because by that point the smaller groups that have been getting the vaccine, we'll have learned how to do this."

Timing here is key. 

The box the governor showed us can be opened twice a day for 90 seconds. The vials thaw for 30 minutes. The vaccines are diluted and sit for two hours and then there is only a six-hour window to inject every dose.

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