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How Barcoding in Healthcare Can Improve COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

The simultaneous development of Pfizer and Moderna’s safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year stands as one of the great feats of recent medical science. Now that the vaccines are available, however, the healthcare industry and government authorities must take on the new challenge of distributing doses to the population quickly and effectively. In some respects, this logistical feat will be every bit as daunting as developing the vaccines themselves.

Fortunately, the use of barcoding in healthcare supply chains and patient records will prove incredibly helpful in overcoming some of the key difficulties in vaccine distribution. Medical barcodes are already being used in many essential applications. For organizations that have yet to fully embrace the potential of digital transformation, barcode processing integrations can help them quickly expand their capabilities to meet the growing demands of vaccine delivery.

4 Ways Medical Barcodes Solve Vaccine Delivery Challenges

1. Better Supply Chain Accuracy Means Less Waste

Given the high costs of manufacturing and distributing the vaccines, there is justifiable concern over the potential for waste. Both versions of the vaccine need to be kept at low temperatures for shipping after manufacture (approximately -90 degrees Fahrenheit for Pfizer and about -10 degrees for Moderna). Once they’re moved to a refrigerator for administration, they cannot be refrozen. While the Moderna vaccine can last for up to 30 days refrigerated (provided the vial is not punctured), the Pfizer vaccine must be discarded after a mere six hours. Further complicating matters, each Pfizer thermal shipping container can potentially hold up to 975 multidose vials (4875 individual doses), whereas each box of Moderna vaccine contains 10 vials (100 doses).

Without accurate inventory and shipment tracking, healthcare providers could easily end up with too much supply in one location and not enough elsewhere. In a worst case scenario, unused doses might even go to waste because they can’t be redirected to another site quickly enough. By incorporating medical barcode scanning throughout the supply chain, healthcare organizations can ensure more efficient distribution during the shipping process. They can also verify that delivery sites have the appropriate storage capacity ahead of time to avoid the possibility of doses going to waste due to lack of freezer space.

2. Improved Dosage Records

One of the key challenges with distributing the currently approved vaccines is that they require multiple doses. Although the doses are identical from a chemical composition and dosage standpoint, the problem is that they must be administered after a specified interval. According to the FDA, that interval is approximately 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine. As healthcare providers work to deliver the vaccine effectively, they must keep accurate records to show who has received the first dose and how much supply of each vaccine shipment should be designated for second doses.

The ability to read and print barcodes providers quickly track where patients are in the vaccination process and ensure that second doses will be available at the appropriate time. This is especially important considering that the vaccines are not interchangeable. Once someone has received the first Pfizer dose, for instance, they should not receive the Moderna vaccine for their second dose (except in exceptional circumstances). By generating a specific barcode after the initial dose and including it with a patient’s health records, providers can quickly and easily match people with the correct vaccine and make sure they have available doses on hand.

3. Keeps Essential Medical Equipment On-Hand

Vaccine distribution involves more than just shipping the doses themselves. Many different accessories are required to administer the vaccine, including protective equipment, vials, rubber stoppers, syringes and needles, and alcohol swabs. Healthcare supply chains were already under significant strain throughout the pandemic, so it should not be taken for granted that providers will have everything they need when the vaccine arrives. Furthermore, as the overall pace of vaccinations increases, it will be important to keep an accurate count of available equipment, especially if a provider does a lot of off-site vaccinations.

Barcoding in healthcare is critical to establishing connections between different elements of the supply chain. By using medical barcode integrations, providers can track and coordinate every piece of equipment needed for vaccine delivery in near-real time. Incorporating the same barcodes into patient records also gives a more up-to-date inventory count as doses are administered, ensuring that hospitals and healthcare facilities don’t run out of essential equipment when they need it most.

4. Expands Distribution Beyond Traditional Supply Chain

Distributing the vaccine in major population centers is difficult enough, but extending delivery into underserved rural areas presents a different set of challenges. These areas often lack the supply chain infrastructure to accommodate the rapid and widespread transfer of medical products. Healthcare providers will need technology tools that allow them to set up remote distribution and treatment centers capable of coordinating with local communities in order to extend their reach into these areas.

While barcoding in healthcare may provide the visibility organizations need into vaccine logistics and patient records, certain regions will also require mobile medical barcode integrations that can put more power and control into the hands of field workers. Rugged, reliable barcode integrations capable of reading broken or damaged barcodes using any mobile device will be essential for overcoming the limitations of rural digital infrastructure.

Unlock the Potential of Barcoding in Healthcare with Barcode Xpress

Accusoft’s Barcode Xpress SDK integration helps healthcare applications read, write, and detect more than thirty different barcode types, even if those images are damaged, broken, or incomplete. With the ability to read multiple barcodes at speeds of up to 1,000 pages per minute, Barcode Xpress can help medical providers take control of their supply chains and manage patient records more efficiently. That same functionality can be extended even further thanks to Barcode Xpress Mobile, which can turn any iOS or Android device into a powerful barcode scanner.

Distributing COVID-19 vaccine doses is one of the great logistical undertakings of the 21st century. By expanding the usage of barcoding in healthcare, providers can create greater transparency into their supply chains to reduce waste and deliver the vaccine more efficiently to the patients who need it most. Find out how Accusoft’s Barcode Xpress can help the medical industry upgrade its infrastructure to meet the challenge of restoring a sense of normalcy to people’s lives and overcoming the pandemic. Try a hands-on demo of our barcode SDK today.