Chicago plays a major role in the nation’s supply chain, which prepares for a lifelong logistical challenge: mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, the complexity of the vaccine rollout and the unique facility requirements mean that Chicago’s sprawling network of warehouses – home to more than 11 million square feet of freezers and chilled spaces – may not play a major role..
This is because there is a big difference between storing foods like hamburger patties, frozen peas and ice cream, and keeping a promising Pfizer vaccine should stay below the winter temperatures in the Arctic..
“Nothing we build can get this cold,” said Tony Brico, president of the Chicago-based Bridge Development Partners that build and owns cold storage and other warehouse buildings across the country.
. . “I don’t think it’s even possible to keep a lot of space this cold. This is not a typical type of freezer.
Regardless of which vaccine appears for mass distribution, transporting and storing it may require the mobilization of public and private resources that only appear rarely, says logistics expert Tray Anderson of Cushman, Chicago-based commercial real estate broker & Wakefield..
Anderson, who leads the company’s industrial and logistical practices for the Americas, said the national effort will likely involve a range of government resources including military vehicles and aircraft..
« This will be one of those comprehensive efforts, similar to what happened in World War II, » Anderson said..
The urgency is only increasing, with infections and hospitalizations rising to record levels in Illinois and many other states. Chicago Mayor Laurie Lightfoot and the Illinois government. J. B. Pritzker is taking new steps to curb gatherings and control the spread of the virus.
Illinois may need facilities ranging from a typical cooler and freezer space to extremely cold spaces, depending on the vaccine. For the Pfizer vaccine, the state will need equipment capable of maintaining temperatures ranging from -60 to -80 degrees Celsius below zero, according to the state’s Comprehensive Immunization Planning Guide. .
These are as low as 112 degrees Fahrenheit – or 144 degrees below the level at which water freezes. Industrial real estate experts said it is nearly impossible to maintain these temperatures in a typical large, open cold storage facility, and it would be unsafe for workers to walk around in such a space.. .
Alternatively, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies can look for space in traditional warehouses, where they can create small cabinet-like freezers that are able to maintain extremely low temperatures. But this approach has its own challenges.
If Pfizer is the vaccine that goes ahead with mass distribution, the pharmaceutical giant says it will largely control the distribution process, working in partnership with the federal and state governments.
The vaccine will be shipped mostly from a sprawling facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pfizer spokeswoman Francesca Marzolo said in an email that Pfizer will also use its distribution center not far from the Illinois border in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.. .
Marzullo said the large Wisconsin facility would include a storage area for vaccines that were not immediately sent to distribution sites such as hospitals..
Pfizer will use thermal shipping containers that can hold up to 4,875 doses. The specially designed containers can maintain a resumed temperature of about minus 70 degrees Celsius, or minus 92 Fahrenheit, for up to 10 days if not opened, she said..
Marzolo said dry ice can be added to the containers once they reach the distribution sites.
Awi Federgruen, professor of management at Columbia Business School, said Pfizer’s preference for controlling a large amount of the shipping and storage process itself highlights. .
“Naturally, working with major distributors can be more effective . . . But the understanding of the necessity to reduce lead times and reduce the number of deliveries to an absolute minimum led to this, Federgruen said: « A very new and ambitious distribution plan. ».
He said it was not yet clear how quickly the distribution would intensify, and whether it would face problems.
Experts say the challenge for hospitals, doctors’ offices and pharmacies is to keep those vaccines cool enough for long enough to use them all.. .
Most hospitals don’t have extremely cold freezers, the ones they typically use for research, said Ting Long Dai, associate professor of operations management and business analytics at Johns Hopkins University’s Cary Business School..
He said an extremely cold freezer could fetch up to $ 20,000. Day said it might make sense for large hospitals in urban areas to make the investment, but less so for smaller, rural hospitals.
The letter U. s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that government and local agencies not purchase very cold storage equipment, and Pritzker has indicated the risk of sticking too early with any given vaccine or distribution plan..
“Well, there was only a preliminary study that was reached on the Pfizer vaccine,” Pritzker said in a briefing on the emerging coronavirus on Thursday.. « I am very optimistic about it. A lot of other doctors d. (Anthony) Fauci, talk about the optimism surrounding him, but there is – investing in equipment to freeze a hundred degrees below zero for the entire state before you even know if this vaccine you’re going to use probably doesn’t make sense..
An alternative to high-cost freezers is for hospitals and pharmacies to keep the vaccine in shipping containers until ready to use, Pfizer suggests.. Day said that this would require hospitals and pharmacies to closely coordinate supply and demand so that they do not end up receiving additional vaccines that spoil.. It would be possible to add dry ice to the containers, he said, but every time ice was added, it creates opportunities for errors..
Day said that the third option for storing vaccines, especially in cities, is to create large central freezing facilities with hundreds of freezers that can hold vaccines for hospitals, pharmacies and doctors.. .
Real estate experts say that the collection of extremely cold containers in one building requires an enormous amount of electricity, in addition to backup power sources in the event of a power outage. .
“It’s almost like a data center, where you have an enormous amount of equipment and energy,” Brico said.
Experts said updated versions of Pfizer, or a competitor vaccine, could bring traditional cold storage facilities into operation, if they could be stored at warmer temperatures.
There are 11. 4 million square feet of cold storage space in the Chicago area, and only 3. 7% was unused in the third quarter, according to real estate data provider CoStar Group.
Vacancies traditionally remain low in the cold storage sector, because facilities are costly to construct and maintain, and are often designed for specific tenants.
Brian Niven, Karis Cold Storage’s chief investment and development officer, said the pandemic is triggering a flurry of new cold storage projects, with sellers blocking online orders that get home.. .
The Chicago Corporation owns a facility in Chicago’s Southwest Side, and Carris recently established a joint venture with Chicago-based BLG Capital Advisors and New York-based Winter Properties to expand nationally, including planned developments in Denver and Los Angeles.
Niven said that many grocery sellers need more space to avoid shortages of items due to the unusual conditions caused by the epidemic, such as meat packing factories that suffer from common diseases..
“With the epidemic that we have suffered from, you not only need the same amount of food that you supply to the population, but you have to make sure that you have enough storage space when plants break down for weeks at a time,” he said. “What we are seeing now is the need for more storage for a longer period of time.
Many warehouse owners are still willing to play a role in rolling out the vaccine, if needed.
“If someone calls us to help with the vaccine, we will face that challenge,” said Michael Kucharsky, vice president of Southern Suburbs Summit, who stocks food.. “Everyone will have to participate to make this happen.
Vaccine, Pfizer, and Coronavirus
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