NC Collaboratory Improves Vaccine Cold Chains
April 15, 2022
The US Centers for Disease Control claims vaccine storage and transport
issues are responsible for nearly 10% of the 65 million COVID-19 vaccine
doses wasted in the US the past two years. To address this vaccine
logistics challenge, the North Carolina Collaboratory and analytics
leader SAS are using IoT analytics and sensor data from vaccine storage
freezers to strengthen cold chain integrity and improve dosage delivery,
particularly to underserved and rural communities.
Established by the state legislature in 2016 and headquartered at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the NC Collaboratory is a
research and policy organization that taps into the resources and
expertise of all 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina
System. Among these institutions are several historically
minority-serving institutions and remote campuses that host ultra-low
temperature freezers that support more equitable vaccine distribution to
underserved communities. The NC Collaboratory provided 63 freezers
across the state, with a capacity of 9.3 million vaccine doses, nearly
enough for every person in the state.
The NC Collaboratory turned to SAS® Analytics for IoT and Microsoft
Azure to select, transform and operationalize data -- without coding --
from sensors across 10 freezer locations at universities, in addition to
third-party public health data. The project monitored the impact of
factors including temperature, humidity, vibration during transport,
opening and closing, duration in storage and freezer capacity, while
tapping predictive insights and intelligent alerting capabilities to
identify and address potential dosage loss and regional vaccine
"COVID-19 created the largest and most complex medical logistics program
in modern history," said Jeff Warren, Executive Director of the NC
Collaboratory. "One of the most formidable challenges has been to
protect supply chain integrity as vaccines are transported and stored
from manufacturers to administration sites – particularly those in
hard-to-reach, underserved communities. Our project with SAS
demonstrated how IoT analytics and technologies can be a game changer in
getting more vaccines to more people."
Key pilot program achievements demonstrated included:
Temperature threshold monitoring that examines temperature trends
that indicate deteriorating freezer conditions and generates proactive
alerts predicting the time remaining before temperature threshold is
reached, preventing vaccine waste and ensuring vaccine viability.
Freezer capacity alerting that provides intelligent alerts when vaccine
supply is insufficient relative to virus spread in an area and offers
recommendations for proactively reallocating supply to meet demand.
chain expert Rob Handfield, Executive Director of North Carolina State
University's Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, has advised SAS on its
cold chain IoT efforts. "With a cold supply chain, you must constantly
maintain very low temperatures, as vaccines that exceed the limit begin
to deteriorate in just five hours," said Handfield. "The SAS approach
seeks to create visibility and prediction into what is today a black box
in the cold chain, helping logistics managers identify potential points
of failure and proactively minimize vaccine loss."
SAS Analytics for IoT is being used to tackle a variety of global
challenges, such as analyzing crop data to deliver higher-quality food,
improving energy forecasting to reduce utility bills, and protecting
people and property from dangerous flooding.
"This project delivers on the promise of innovation by quickly and
efficiently generating value from IoT data using SAS Analytics for IoT
-- an award-winning, cloud-native solution that employs AI and streaming
capabilities to accelerate the generation of predictive insights," said
Jason Mann, Vice President for Internet of Things at SAS. "I'm proud of
our university partnerships, and our focus on applying proven IoT
solutions to improve critical outcomes and strengthen the cold chain.
This initiative will undoubtedly accelerate the state's ability to
prepare and respond in the face of the next pandemic, variant or
deployment of future mRNA vaccines."