Every challenge is also a business opportunity. The development of a potential vaccine for Covid-19 is no exception. Vaccines developed by US drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, whose clinical trials show to be highly effective in preventing coronavirus, must be transported and stored at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius or below. The daunting task of authorities eager to quickly deliver billions of doses around the world is a potential advantage for those who manufacture freezers and handle loads.
The authorities have overcome a similar enigma before. The vaccine developed to combat the Ebola epidemic also required storage at ultra-low temperatures, but doctors managed to successfully deploy it in multiple African countries. However, the challenge of preventing Covid-19 is much greater. DHL, the logistics arm of Deutsche Post, estimates that the world will handle some 10 billion doses of various coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2021. An estimated 3 billion of them will use novel messenger RNA technology that requires ultra-cold storage. The transportation of all cargo could involve 15,000 flights and 15 million special cold boxes.
This medical mission represents a windfall for the companies involved in the storage and delivery of the vaccine. Companies that make super-cold freezers started preparing months ago. Thermo King, an American pioneer in the transport of cold that is part of Trane Technologies (which has a value of 34,000 million dollars), has improved its super-freezers to transport safely vials for Covid-19 by truck from airports to the hospitals. Manufacturers of gases for extreme cold conditions and dry ice may also have higher demand for their products. Shares in France’s Air Liquide are up 10% this month; his rival Linde has won 16%.
Transportation companies are another piece of the vaccine puzzle. Kuehne + Nagel, the $ 25 billion Swiss logistics group, said in September that it had opened two temperature-controlled facilities in Brussels and Johannesburg in anticipation of increased demand for vaccine distribution. DHL, which has some 9,000 employees trained to handle sensitive medical transport, and rivals FedEx and United Parcel Service are also warming up.
The hardest question to answer is how long the hustle will last. If one or two doses provide permanent immunity against Covid-19, then the challenge of delivery (like the vaccine itself) will be on time. If people need regular booster shots, then super cold freezers and freight could be a new growth industry.
The authors are columnists for Reuters Breakingviews. Opinions are yours. The translation, of Carlos Gómez Down, it is the responsibility of Five days