NHS harnesses blockchain to track coronavirus vaccines

Two hospitals in South Warwickshire are using blockchain to track the storage and supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

Distributed ledger provider Hedera Hashgraph and digital asset tracking and monitoring company Everyware are working with the NHS facilities to monitor the cold storage equipment being used to store COVID-19 vaccines.

The distributed ledger, a branch of blockchain technology, is helping the hospitals track vaccines and drugs as well as to monitor storage.

A wider rollout of the technology across further locations is planned as vaccine distribution progresses.

The various COVID-19 vaccines, including the one developed by Pfizer and now approved for use in the UK, require exact degrees of cold storage at all times in order to maintain their efficacy.

While centralised distribution centres and transportation units can store the vaccine at the recommended -70°C±10°C for up to 10 days unopened, they must also be stored at hospitals and other administering centers for five days at refrigerated 2-8°C conditions.

Tracking and monitoring software technology by Everyware can be configured to track several variables, including temperature, 24/7 and from anywhere.

The technology allows healthcare facilities to ensure vaccines are kept at the correct temperature the entire time, before administering them to patients.

It also enables NHS hospitals to share information with other parts of the vaccine delivery chain, including pharmaceutical providers, centralised storage facilities, and transportation companies, to respond and adjust to any issues as they arise.

"Everyware has already demonstrated their capability as a trusted partner, helping us monitor the integrity of a wide variety of clinical applications,” said Steve Clarke, electro biomedical engineering manager, South Warwickshire NHS. “As we begin to prepare the roll out of these new COVID-19 vaccines, with the specific temperature requirements, we recognise the importance of utilising their same tracking and monitoring capabilities. This, in turn, will allow us to demonstrate our commitment to providing safe patient care."

Mance Harmon, founder and chief executive of Hedera talked about how its network creates a secure, distributed base network layer of supply chain, pharmaceutical, and healthcare services: "Hedera makes it practical and cost-effective for organizations to benefit from the transparency and accountability of distributed ledgers. Asset monitoring and management is a great example of this, and we're so pleased to help bring that data integrity and trust to the important work that Everyware is doing with NHS hospitals in support of their emerging COVID-19 vaccination efforts."

Tom Screen, technical director for Everyware, said: "Monitoring the ongoing temperature of these refrigeration units is critically important, and ensuring the integrity of that data is an equally important part of maintaining trust in the results, and being able to easily share them across the entire vaccine supply chain. Hedera's distributed ledger technology provides that tamper-proof record-keeping system, making it perfect for recording and validating results efficiently and cost-effectively. Everyware welcomes collaboration with other partners in the vaccine supply chain to ensure end-to-end traceability."

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