Will the supply chain have to be remade for a COVID vaccine?

November 11, 2020, 3:27 PM UTC

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News of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine sent waves of relief throughout the world.

But here’s the question: How will the vaccine be distributed? The mRNA-based treatment is expected to require a vast and expensive supply chain to remain effective: The vaccine will need to be kept in extremely cold storage—in subzero temperatures—and used within five days after being thawed out.

And then the process must repeat all over again for a second booster shot a month later. Already, experts are pointing out the difficulties of delivering a vaccine, especially to rural spots and poor nations.

It’s a costs-to-benefits analysis with the highest stakes. There are other approaches to a COVID vaccine that could be cheaper, but they have yet to show the same level of promise. Per Bloomberg

It also presents a choice now faced across the developing world: to pay for the expensive construction of subzero cold-chain infrastructure for what seems like a sure bet, or wait for a slower, more conventional vaccine that brews batches of protein or inactivated viral particles in living cells, and can be delivered through existing health-care networks.

The need for cold storage is already a challenge, most noticeably in food transportation. Rachel Drori, CEO of Daily Harvest, told me during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, Next Gen virtual conference that early in the pandemic, the startup faced difficulties delivering frozen meals thanks to a nationwide shortage of dry ice—a product used to also transport medicine. 

It’s also one investors are honing in on. Earlier this year, Lineage Logistics, a cold storage company,  raised $1.6 billion from investors including Oxford Properties Group, BentallGreenOak, and D1 Capital Partners.

REMEMBER TIKTOK? The Trump administration may have…forgotten about the company. Earlier this year, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States ordered ByteDance, the app’s Chinese parent company, to effectively divest of assets used to support its U.S. operations by November 12. ByteDance’s tentative solution was to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets to a new entity which would see Oracle and Walmart take a 20% stake in the new firm. 

Now, on the heels of a protracted U.S. election, ByteDance says it has yet to receive substantive clarity on its new framework, nor has it received approval by CFIUS for a 30-day extension on the deadline. With the deadline—and its unclear implications—just around the corner, ByteDance filed a petition Tuesday with a U.S. Federal Appeals Court challenging the order to divest. Read more.

HOW COULD FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY FOSTER FINANCIAL INCLUSION? Join Fortune’s next Brainstorm Finance gathering to discuss alongside Goldman Sachs Chief Strategy Officer Stephanie Cohen; SoFi CEO Anthony Noto; Mastercard President, North America, Craig Vosburg; and Coinbase COO Emilie Choi on Wednesday, November 18, at 12:00 PM ET. REGISTER HERE.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda
Email: lucinda.shen@fortune.com


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