Flu vaccines bring better health, but what if getting a vaccine wasn't as easy as going to your local clinic? In Laos, flu vaccines aren't available as part of routine health programmes, but some waves of the virus originate in Southeast Asia. Not only could a vaccine help prevent cases of respiratory disease in Laos--it could potentially help prevent influenza strains from spreading to other places.
When Walgreens donated flu vaccine doses totalling more than $9 million to the Laos Ministry of Health, there was no simple way to get this cargo to the people who needed it. Our teams saw the need and were excited by the challenge: Moving temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals through five countries, each with their own climate and customs regulations, on a tight timeline.
"The UPS healthcare group has a very engaged solutions group that has the ability to look at a situation and think outside the box to be able to come up with a solution," says Dimitri Zacharenko, a UPS Manager of Temperature Sensitive Healthcare Solutions. "We think of things in a very fluid manner."
It's this fluidity that allows us to face these types of challenges head-on.
"The shipment needed to travel across two continents and over five stops," explains Margaret Clayton, UPS Director of Enterprise Sales, Healthcare. "The planning was a round-the-clock effort by a large team thinking of every small detail."
Working on a strict schedule, our specialists in healthcare, logistics, brokerage, freight forwarding and UPS Airlines collaborated to coordinate the 9,000-mile shipment, ensuring uninterrupted movement through our international transportation network.
The delivery was going to be difficult, but doable - thanks in part to our temperature-controlled cargo container.
The PharmaPort™ 360 is an environmentally friendly active container that maintains a constant internal temperature regardless of external conditions. Two of these units kept the vaccine within a critical range of 2 °C to 8 °C throughout the trip to Laos, despite 40 degrees of outside temperature variation. By employing something as simple and easily accessible as cell phone technology, the containers' location and internal temperature could be tracked at all times. No other container uses GPS technology quite like this.
Early on, Zacharenko discovered that we couldn't fly directly in to Vientiane, Laos due to infrastructure limitations. But we could fly to Bangkok, Thailand and carry the vaccine on the ground the rest of the way.
"In my investigations, I actually went to Google Earth and got satellite shots from the road from Bangkok to Vientiane to see if it was potentially possible to use the roads," Zacharenko says. "We don't have normal transportation set up for trucking between those places."
It would be a 19-hour trek by truck over roads with sections left unpaved, but he found that we could do it.
The UPS Asia/Pacific Solutions group was involved in orchestrating this delivery as well, helping to arrange customs clearance in Thailand and Laos. Work instructions were translated into multiple languages to ensure the shipment went smoothly.
"At last count, I believe there were 47 people from 15 different departments on two different continents working on this, and in less than seven days, we brought everyone together and made it happen," says Kevin Etter, a UPS Healthcare Logistics Strategy Group product manager.
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