Staying Healthy in a Pandemic: The Role of Blockchain in the COVID-19 Response


In the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and the very lives of everyday men and women hang in the balance, and every improvement in efficiency within the medical supply chain means cost savings and enhanced access to critical healthcare. Even in the best of times, health care suppliers play a vital role in public health, but as we all know we are not living in normal times. Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that this was no ordinary illness, and equally clear that the same old response simply would not do.

Now the world is months into a raging pandemic, and the race is on to develop a vaccine that will protect people from illness and overcome the objections of a skeptical public.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have stepped up in a big way, bringing science to bear on the situation, embarking on a rigorous testing program and preproducing millions of doses even before formal approval has been given.

The race for a vaccine is ongoing, but the development of a workable treatment is just the beginning of the process, not the end. Even once a vaccine is developed, there is the matter of production, distribution and tracking to consider. With timelines this tight, pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers cannot afford to leave anything to chance. The bad news is that as of yet there is no effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus. The good news is that there are many promising candidates already in human trials, but that is not the only reason for hope.

There is additional good news, though – blockchain technology promises to upend the vaccine manufacturing and distribution process.

Whether healthcare companies were distributing the annual flu vaccine, a new vaccination like the one for HPV or retooling an old inoculation, manufacturers faced some significant challenges in the supply chain, including production bottlenecks, difficulties obtaining basic manufacturing materials and difficulties with just-in-time deliveries. However, those challenges pale in comparison with what medical suppliers are facing today, and it is clear that something different will have to be done.

Luckily, medical suppliers have a powerful ally in the quest for a widely distributed and highly effective COVID-19 vaccine. Thanks to the power of the blockchain, businesses can overcome manufacturing challenges, and eliminate time wasting bottlenecks, track component chemicals from original sourcing to the final stages of the production process and speed up the time it takes to manufacture the millions, and eventually billions, of doses that will be required.

The blockchain has other advantages as well, including the potential to improve the quality of the finished vaccines.

By helping manufacturers identify potentially harmful ingredients, the blockchain-enabled supply chain can be both safer and more robust, giving companies like yours one more advantage as the race for a vaccine gets underway in earnest. Previous experiments with blockchain technology have also demonstrated its powerful cost-saving benefits. Controlling manufacturing and distribution costs could prove pivotal in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine; no preventative treatment, no matter how powerful, will be effective unless it is also affordable.

By now many companies are starting to see the enormous potential blockchain can have on their supply chains and in the distribution of their products in the fight against COVID-19. But many companies also have some questions, including how this powerful new technology can integrate with their existing production infrastructure.

The formal integration process will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of a company’s current infrastructure and its specific manufacturing needs. As we move forward, the medical supply industry will work together to improve its supply chains, lower manufacturing costs and bring an effective COVID-19 vaccine to the billions of people around the world who are anxiously waiting for a solution.