The world is in turmoil because of the global pandemic, and governments everywhere are on the lookout for vaccines to safeguard their citizens. The number of manufacturers of vaccines around the world is very limited to keep up the production to match the demand for vaccines.
How can the chemical industry help
Vaccine manufacturing is a time-sensitive business. The raw materials required are to be gathered in a very limited time, and the degree of precision in combining and synthesizing the vaccine is unparalleled. To understand which chemical industries will be able to benefit from the increased demand, we need to look over the composition of vaccines briefly. Each ingredient serves a very specific purpose, some provide immunity, some increase the shelf life of the product, and some are required to produce the vaccine. While each vaccine has its own specific set of raw materials, some components are needed to produce any kind of vaccine.
These are proteins, lipids, salts, and an active ingredient. Again, the exact composition differs depending on the manufacturer. Salts like potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, and basic sodium phosphate dihydrate can be necessary for the vaccine. The molecule that forms the core of the vaccine usually comes encapsulated in a lipid case. Other than these core components, the stability of the vaccine is ensured by the addition of certain other chemicals. These usually include acids like acetic acid, acid stabilizers like tromethamine, and salts like sodium acetate and sugars. Other chemicals that are said to be important are citric acid monohydrate, trisodium citrate dihydrate, etc.
The industries that focus on producing these chemicals or the components of these chemicals can expect to see an increase in demand in the coming years.
Beyond the production, the chemical industries in the US should also focus on developing more efficient supply chains to ensure prompt delivery of products to the customers. The pandemic-driven slowdown and the 2021 Suez Canal obstruction have shown how unprepared our present systems of supply chains are with respect to responding to unexpected external shocks. Organizations and plants should integrate advancements in computing like the Internet-of-Things and real-time sensor based monitoring and control of plants into the production process to facilitate accelerated manufacturing and prompt service delivery. Vaccine manufacturers can be expected to have centralized production facilities, and the plants that produce the raw materials should keep a close eye on the potential supply shocks that might occur in delivery.
New supply chains should focus on resilience and effectively adopt the latest advancements in technology like blockchains and artificial intelligence to efficiently respond to disasters and supply chain bottlenecks. New supply chain models like neural supply chains, which emphasize autonomy for each component to modify their operations and scale up production, should be seriously considered.
Building additional capacity is an important way by which companies and governments are approaching the constraints in availability. Vaccine developers are also retrofitting and adapting existing facilities and to take advantage of their manufacturing capacity and expertise. It has to be seen how governments handle the crisis of limited availability, but one thing is for sure. The chemicals and raw materials that are required for the manufacturing of vaccines will see an increased demand in the coming years. Chemical supply companies with enhanced production capabilities and timely delivery of raw materials is essential to ensure that the world has enough vaccines.