To paraphrase “Jaws:” we need a bigger distribution. In a timely move, IBM and Moderna just announced their collaboration to improve the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain and distribution data sharing.
On Tuesday, March 16, the line up at the Central Los Angeles location for unscheduled vaccinations was in the hundreds, way before the doors to the facility were to open at 9 a.m. Those at the front of the line huddled in small tents and down sleeping bags. Despite the fact that overall coronavirus cases are slowing, there have been 1,211,000 lab-confirmed cases in L.A. County and nearly 22,600 deaths.
As the most populous state in the nation, California’s plodding rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations was enough to rally the huge number of as-yet not-eligible “vaccine vampires,” who hoped to receive any of the “leftover” injections, which must be used that day. Unfortunately, despite the multi-block line, the facility averages only 10 of the sought-after shots, according to a local nurse who schedules patients for official appointments.
IBM and Moderna intend to explore technologies, including artificial intelligence, blockchain and hybrid cloud to potentially help support smarter COVID-19 vaccine management. Central to the effort will be a pilot of open, standardized, technology-enabled vaccine distribution approaches aimed to improve supply chain visibility and foster near real-time tracking of vaccine administration.
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The aim of the partnership is to identify ways tech can be used to help accelerate secure information sharing between governments, healthcare providers, life science organizations and individuals. “Moderna and IBM seek to improve confidence in vaccine programs and increase rates of vaccination, thereby reducing community spread,” a press release stated.
IBM’s capabilities in the U.S. will be the base of the initial work, which includes “vaccine management solutions that provide end-to-end traceability to address potential supply chain disruptions. The solutions enable governments and healthcare providers to quickly and securely share data regarding individual vaccine batches as they travel through the complex COVID-19 supply chain, from manufacturing facilities to administration sites.”
“If ever there was a time to rally around open technology and collaboration, it’s now,” said Jason Kelley, managing partner, global strategic alliances leader for IBM. “As governments, pharmacy chains, healthcare providers and life sciences companies continue to scale and connect their tools, and as new players enter the supply chain, open technology can help drive more transparency and bolster trust, while helping to ensure accessibility and equity in the process.”
Built on blockchain technology, the Digital Health Pass is designed for an individual to control personal health information and share it, if they want, in a secure, verifiable and trusted way. Organizations can use the solution to verify health credentials for employees, customers and travelers based on criteria specified by the organization, such as test results, vaccination records and temperature checks.
“Moderna is committed to working with a coalition of partners to increase education and awareness of the importance of vaccination to help defeat COVID-19,” said Michael Mullette, vice president, managing director North America commercial operations of Moderna.
At the start of the pandemic, IBM joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and other technology companies as part of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, a partnership to give supercomputing resources to researchers to help speed the discovery and development of COVID-19 vaccines. IBM also offered its IBM Clinical Development solution to eligible trial sponsor organizations as part of its medical community support efforts to help address the pandemic. The company received interest from numerous hospitals, sponsors, contract research organizations and academic institutions.