Photos: Inside the warehouse storing Covid-19 vaccines in UAE
Published on August 17, 2021 at 21.16
Operating one of the largest storage facilities of its type in the region and beyond is quite a task.
As you read this, more than a 11 million vials of Covid-vaccines are probably chilling (no pun intended) in a state of deep freeze at -80 degrees Celsius in Abu Dhabi. The Hope Consortium ‘s cold and ultra-cold storage facility can hold all temperature brands of Covid-19 vaccines, ranging from more than 120 million vaccine vials at +8 to -30 degrees centigrade, to ultra-cold freezers that can hold 11.4 million vaccine doses at -80 degrees Celsius.-Photos by Ryan Lim/Khaleej Times
The consortium which is spearheading the global fight against the pandemic, employes a hub and spoke model in Abu Dhabi for efficient logistics, with the advanced 19,000sqm warehouse in the emirate acting as the fulcrum of the entire operations to ensure Covid-19 vaccine supplies to different parts of the world. “The storage and logistics, we are able to hold all of the vaccines regardless of the temperature, from the most extreme, which is Pfizer at -80 degrees Celsius, all the way through to Sputnik, which is -20,” said Robert Sutton, head of logistics cluster, Abu Dhabi Ports.
Majority of the vaccines in the market now are in a range of between 2 to 8 degrees, which is easy to manage in comparison. So, regardless of the brand — whether it’s Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Sputnik or Sinopharm, this facility is able to manage that.
Without naming the brands stored in the chambers, Sutton said: “We currently hold five different brands, but the number changes daily depending on what is coming in and going out. We particularly move from Europe, Asia and the US. We are sourcing today from about eight countries.” Sutton pointed out that operating one of the largest facilities of its type in the region and beyond is quite a task.
The highly-secured facility is operational 24X7. There are several dry-storage points from where temperature-controlled vehicles load and unload vaccines. It is then moved to storage chambers, depending on the temperature requirements. There are eight cold storage chambers maintained at 2 to 8 degrees. A chamber is kept at a certain temperature range depending on the brand of the vaccine stored.
“All of this is connected to our integrated digital system,” he said, while displaying a large screen that works as a single-point system to monitor the facility, which also includes a plant room, cold rooms, electrical room etc. “We have a core base of 60 staff at the facility.”
Apart from flying vaccines across the world, a fleet of ‘final mile’ temperature-controlled vehicles approved by the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, have been delivering vaccines from the warehouse to the vaccination centres and healthcare facilities. The vehicles are connected to the ‘mUnity’ system, which is a digital blockchain-enabled solution developed by Maqta Gateway to track and monitor the journey of the vaccines through the cold chain.
Till date, the Consortium has provided 65 million vaccine doses to more than 40 countries. However, Sutton said more can be done depending on the availability of vaccines.
“The key thing is vaccine availability. We are able to do more if more vaccines become available in the world. The UAE stands as a shining beacon of what’s possible when vaccines are available. The percentage of vaccinations is very high. This is thanks to the leadership and their vision to be able to support that.”
As of Tuesday, the local health authorities have administered nearly 17.5 million vaccine doses in the UAE, with 82.82 per cent having received a single dose, and 73.21 per cent fully vaccinated.
“As soon as vaccines become available , we hope that other countries will also reach the same levels. We need more vaccines,” Sutton added.