In 2020, the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development required an ultra-cold chain. This meant that equitable global distribution of the vaccines could be hindered by a lack of ultra-cold chain facilities on the African continent. Ultra-cold chain relies on dry ice as part of its supply chain. Dry ice is made of liquid carbon dioxide, an ingredient in many Coca-Cola Company beverages. Thus, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invited Project Last Mile to conduct a rapid assessment of the availability of liquid carbon dioxide in the Coca-Cola value chain.

Countries included in assessment

With a fast-moving pandemic, no one is safe, unless everyone is safe. Therefore, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation requested that Project Last Mile expand its scope of analysis beyond Africa to include COVAX countries in Latin America and the Pacific Islands. COVAX is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and others. This expanded request brought the total countries evaluated for this feasibility study to 70 across three regions.

Project Last Mile leveraged its networks within the Coca-Cola system in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Islands to identify potential sources of dry ice and liquid carbon dioxide to evaluate availability of existing carbon dioxide. Fifteen bottler and 35 liquid carbon dioxide and dry ice suppliers from the Coca-Cola system were consulted for this assessment. The quantities of dry ice and liquid carbon dioxide available by country were mapped against demand determined by the COVAX Delivery Model and shortfalls in capacity were identified.

The key findings from the assessment indicated:

  • At the time of the evaluation, there was ample liquid carbon dioxide capacity to support the ultra-cold chain requirements for the COVID-19 vaccination program for up to 1% of the total country population across each of the 70 countries
  • There is immediate available capacity to produce dry ice in 23 countries, covering 61% of the target population for vaccination in those countries.
  • Where air transport is unviable or undesirable for countries with insufficient local dry ice supply, a combination of installing dry ice capacity and transportation where possible can be implemented at a cost of $17.5m for 1% of total country population or $1.24 per person vaccinated using two doses over 21 days.

Project Last Mile is continuing to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to disseminate the findings of the assessment, with the hope that the assessment can support countries in determining the operational feasibility of maintaining an ultra-cold chain to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

Webinar on the findings of the availability of dry-ice to support ultra-cold chain distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

On March 11, 2021, TechNet-21 invited Project Last Mile to share the findings on the operational feasibility of maintaining ultra-cold temperatures to distribute COVID-19 vaccines – the availability of dry ice within the Coca-Cola value chain in 70 countries. The session was led Project Last Mile consultant, Jonathan Halse. Jonathan currently leads Supply Chain Redesign Projects across multiple countries in Africa with Project Last Mile. Jonathan has worked for many leading FMCG leadership brands, including Coca-Cola, Mars, and Pepsi, where he held numerous leadership positions in operations and was deeply involved in capability building in many diverse markets across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The webinar was opened by Alexandra Scott, Director of Program Delivery for Project Last Mile. You can watch the webinar below.

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