Srinivasan Sundararajan

Over the last few weeks, several pharma companies across world have announced vaccines for COVID. The respective governments are going through rigorous testing and approval processes to roll out vaccines soon.

The massive exercise of administering vaccines to billions of people across different geographies poses various challenges. Add to this the fact that different vaccines have strict conditions for storage and handling. Also, the entire history of traceability of the vaccine should be available.

While tracking the supply chain of any commodity in general and pharmaceutical products, in particular, is always complex, the COVID-19 vaccine poses tougher challenges. The following are the current temperature sensitivity needs of various vaccine manufacturers.  

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The information is from publicly available sites and should not be treated as a guideline for vaccine storage.

Blockchain to the Rescue

Even before the pandemic, Blockchain with its built-in ability to provide transparency across stakeholders has been a major platform for pharmaceutical traceability. The criticality for providing COVID-19 vaccine traceability has only strengthened the cause of utilizing blockchain for the supply chain in the pharma industry.

Blockchain networks with its base attributes like de-centralized ownership of data, single version of truth across stakeholders, the ability to ensure the data ownership based on cryptography-based security, and the ability to implement and manage business rules, will be a default platform handling the traceability of COVID-19 vaccines across multiple stakeholders.

Going beyond, Blockchain will also play a major role in the Identity and Credentialing of healthcare professionals involved, as well as the Consent Management of the patients who will be administered the vaccine. With futuristic technology needs like Health Passport, Digital Twin of a Person, Blockchain goes a long way in solving the current challenges in healthcare beyond streamlining the supply chain.

GAVS Blockchain Based Prototype for COVID-19 vaccine Traceability

GAVS has created a prototype of Blockchain-based network platform for vaccine traceability to demonstrate its usability. This solution has a much larger scope for extending to various healthcare use cases.

The below is the high-level process flow of the COVID-19 vaccine trial and various stakeholders involved.

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Image Source – www.counterpointresearch.com

Based on the use case and the stakeholders involved. GAVS prototype first creates a consortium using a private blockchain network. For the sake of simplicity, Distributors are not mentioned, but in real life, every stakeholder will be present. Individuals who receive the vaccine from hospitals are not part of the Network at this stage. But in future, their consent can be tracked using Blockchain.

Using Azure Blockchain Service, we can create private consortium blockchain networks where each blockchain network can be limited to specific participants in the network. Only participants in the private consortium blockchain network can view and interact with the blockchain. This ensures that sensitive information about vaccines are not exposed or misused.

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The following smart contracts are created as part of the solution with assigned ownership to the individual stake holders.

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A glimpse of few of the smart contracts are listed for illustration purposes.

pragma solidity ^0.5.3;

pragma experimental ABIEncoderV2; 

contract Batch {

    string  public BatchId;

    string  public ProductName;

    string  public ProductType;

    string  public TempratureMaintained;

    string  public Efficacy;

    string  public Cost;

    address public CurrentOwner;

    address public ManufacturerAddr;

    address public AirLogAddr;

    address public LandLogAddr;

    address public HospAdminAddr;

    address public HospStaffAddr;

    string[] public AirTemp = new string[](10);

    string[] public LandTemp = new string[](10);

    string[] public HospTemp = new string[](20);

    string  public receiptNoteaddr;

    constructor  (string memory _batchId, string memory _productName,  string memory _productType,  string memory _TemperatureMaintained,  string memory _Efficacy,  string memory _Cost) public {

        ManufacturerAddr = msg.sender;

        BatchId = _batchId;

        ProductName = _productName ;

        ProductType = _productType;

        TemperatureMaintained = _TemperatureMaintained;

        Efficacy = _Efficacy;

        Cost = _Cost;

    }   

    modifier onlyOwner()    {

        require (msg.sender == CurrentOwner, “Only Current Owner Can Initiate This Action”);

        _;

    }      

    function updateOwner(address _addr) onlyOwner public{

       CurrentOwner = _addr;

    }        

    function retrieveBatchDetails() view  public returns (string memory, string memory, string memory, string memory, string memory, address, address, address, address, address, string[] memory, string[] memory, string[] memory, string memory) {

        return (BatchId,ProductName,TemperatureMaintained,Efficacy,Cost,ManufacturerAddr,AirLogAddr,LandLogAddr,HospAdminAddr,HospStaffAddr,AirTemp,LandTemp,HospTemp,receiptNoteaddr);  

    }

}  

The front end (Dapp) through which the traceability of the COVID-19 vaccine can be monitored is also developed and the following screenshots show certain important data flows.

Vaccine Traceability System Login Screen

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Traceability view for a particular batch of Vaccine

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Details of vaccinated patients entered by hospital

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Advantages of The Solution

  • With every vaccine monitored over the blockchain, each link along the chain could keep track of the entire process, and health departments could monitor the chain as a whole and intervene, if required, to ensure proper functioning.
  • Manufacturers could track whether shipments are delivered on time to their destinations.
  • Hospitals and clinics could better manage their stocks, mitigating supply and demand constraints. Furthermore, they would get guarantees concerning vaccine authenticity and proper storage conditions.
  • Individuals would have an identical guarantee for the specific vaccine they receive.
  • Overall this technology-driven approach will help to save the lives in this critical juncture.

 Extensibility to Future Needs

Gartner’s latest hypercycle for emerging technologies highlight several new technologies and notably Health Passport. As the travelers used to travel with a physical passport pandemic has created the need for a health passport, which is more like a digital health record that passengers can carry on their phones. Ideally, it should show the passengers past exposure to diseases and the vaccine records. By properly deploying health passports, several industries can revive themselves by allowing free-flowing movement of passengers across the globe.

The above blockchain solution though meant for COVID-19 traceability can potentially extended to a health passport once the patient also becomes part of it by a wallet based authentication mechanism, at GAVS we plan to explore the health passports on Blockchain in the coming months.

About the Author –

Srini is the Technology Advisor for GAVS. He is currently focused on Healthcare Data Management Solutions for the post-pandemic Healthcare era, using the combination of Multi Modal databases, Blockchain and Data Mining. The solutions aim at Patient data sharing within Hospitals as well as across Hospitals (Healthcare Interoperability) while bringing more trust and transparency into the healthcare process using patient consent management, credentialing, and zero knowledge proofs.