With two vaccines for COVID-19 now receiving an emergency use authorization by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, the logistics of getting a shot in every arm is a huge logistic challenge. Tiberius is a software platform specifically developed for Operation Warp Speed (OWS) to plan and monitor the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. It provides the visibility necessary for a smooth transition from manufacturing the vaccine to allocating the vaccine down to provider level. Information from the U.S. Census, the Vaccine Tracking System and commercial logistics companies such a FedEx and United Parcel Service (UPS) was incorporated into the platform.
The logistics include not only the manufacturing, supply chain, allocation, and delivery of the vaccine but also the kits to administer the vaccine which include needles, syringes and supplies.
There are 64 jurisdictions which include U.S. states, territories and large metropolitan cities will use Tiberius to determine where their allocated doses will go based on guidance from the FDA, CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on how to prioritize the administration of vaccines. An algorithm was devised based on the census-derived percentage of the U.S. population over the age of 18. Initially the vaccine will be limited as the first doses arrive around the country, but Operation Warp Speed will continue to run the algorithm each week as the supply increases and determine how much vaccine will go to each jurisdiction.
“The federal government is running the algorithm, but the states will make the decision as to where the doses go, and we will comply with their decision and get those doses to the final destination,” said Paul Mango, the deputy chief of staff for policy at HHS.
Once the vaccine ships, Tiberius will also be used to provide information updates for jurisdictional partners, said Deacon Maddox, Operation Warp Speed chief of plans, operations, and analytics. “Like most of America, public health professionals are working through the challenges brought on by quarantines, telework and social distancing,” Maddox said. “While the pandemic stresses both people and systems, our expertise and technology tools provide a disciplined and deliberate approach to prioritize vaccine delivery and ease the burden of public health officials throughout the nation.”
The federal government provided training materials when Tiberius was launched Labor Day weekend and HHS funds a help desk and technology personnel for each jurisdiction.
Army Gen. Gus F. Perna, chief operating officer of OWS recently briefed the media on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. As soon as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA employees from Pfizer, UPS and FedEx began the work to pack the vaccine and get it shipped out. “The strategy is to get the initial Pfizer vaccine out to Americans right away,” he said. “As it becomes available, the vaccine is allocated in a fair and equitable manner to the states and territories, which stipulate the location and quantity needed,” he explained. The Moderna vaccine began shipment once it received emergency use authorization.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens Company, other pharmacies and the states created a very elaborate campaign strategy to get the vaccine to long-term health care facilities and first-line medical personnel who will be the initial priority group,” Perna said. “Our goal is every vaccine that goes out is safe and effective upon delivery. And, we wanted to make sure that deliveries occurred in the places where people could receive them and then begin administering the vaccine to the American people. And, it went incredibly well.”
The federal government has purchased enough vaccines to meet the goal of vaccinating every American who wants it by the second quarter of 2021.
USAMMA Spearheads Military Distribution
The US Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) is spearheading the distribution for all branches of the services and is working with the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Health Care Division. They are collecting the COVID-19 vaccine orders and submitting to the CDC. They will track the vaccine shipments from the vendors to each military location.
USAMMA Distribution Operations Center Deputy Director Liz Andrews said, “the vaccine will ship directly from the vendor to several military medical treatment facilities throughout the U.S. where it will be used to immunize troops, as well as military beneficiaries and bolster their immunity against the pandemic.”
According to Andrews, one of the logistical challenges is the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at ultr-cold temperatures. She and her team can track not only the location of the vaccine but also its temperature throughout the distribution process. “This is a challenging mission but also very exciting. We are prepared to execute this mission and proud to be a part of Operation Warp Speed,” she said.
“The military hospitals are already used to working with us, so this made the process smoother for them as they were familiar with our systems and forms,” Andrews said. “The USAMMA Distribution Operations Center web development team also played a crucial role by swiftly adapting USAMMA’s existing vaccine ordering system, so it could be used for COVID-19 vaccine order processing. This was a total team effort, and we are just honored to be a part of this whole campaign.”
The Department of Defense will continue to play an important role in Operation Warp Speed until this pandemic is contained.