With the advent of multiple pharma companies coming up with multiple Covid-19 vaccines, India hopes to start rolling out vaccines by March 2021. However, the bigger problem lies in its cold chain storage and transportation infrastructure. The COVID vaccination is very likely to become a reality as early as the second quarter of FY21 and has been raising hopes to conquer the novel virus altogether.

But the question still remains, “How the cold chain warehouses of India is would manage the end to end process?

It is needless to say that the cold storage warehouse along with the entire supply chain shall play the most pivotal role in providing vaccine in every nook & corner of the country. India being the country with second most infection cases globally, has sadly, very limited resources pertaining to cold storage warehouse & transportation infrastructure.

The problem statement

While the government is making best effort to make sure that enough supplies are being procured, the task comes at the warehouse and logistics industry to make sure it is delivered to the frontline warriors and patients and then to the rest of the population. The substantial and adequate facilities required by compliant warehouses to store the vaccination for a prolonged time has made the task trickier. Also to note, is that due to lack of clarity from the government’s side, the pharmaceutical companies are engaged in their own distribution network by engaging with cold logistics firms and warehouse developers.

In order to store the COVID-19 vaccines properly, the government will have to utilize a part of the infrastructure available under the current immunization program and need support from private players. But the utilization of the Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI) for the COVID-19 vaccine has not been officially announced yet.

Vaccine candidates and the temperatures they need to survive:
VaccineCold chain Requisite
Pfizer/BioNTech-70 degrees Celsius
Moderna-20 degrees Celsius
Oxford/AstraZeneca2-8 degrees
Johnson and Johnson2-8 degrees
Novavax2-8 degrees

Source: Respective companies

The task at hands of the warehousing industry

An adequate temperature needs to be maintained by cold storage warehouses to store vaccines. Hence, fully-compliant cold storage is a must to store the drugs. While the existing cold storage warehouses have limited capacity, arranging cold storage warehouses who are capable of maintaining such lower temperature in rural areas would be a mammoth task. The slightest shift in temperatures could render the medicinal products ineffective or even toxic. Not only the basic infrastructures but the requirements range is as follows:

RequirementsCurrent capacity/quantity in India
Walk-in coolers Government capacity225
Walk-in freezers that can maintain temp. below -10degrees57
Ice Refrigerators (2 to 8 degrees)50000+
Deep freezers (Below -2 degrees


Approx. 40000

Apart from these, some other systems that need to be in place are:

RequirementsCurrent capacity/quantity in India
Solar refrigerators where power supply is an issue100
Cold Boxes100000
Handheld vaccine carrier for door to door1500000
Vaccine vans



Overcoming current challenges: A flawless cold storage & transportation system

As the race to develop the COVID vaccine accelerates, the need to proactively build and develop compliant warehouses which are capable of maintaining suitable temperature has to be a decisive priority.

On the warehousing and cold storage front, successful delivery to far ends of the country is another challenge; this is where reefer trucks will come to play an important role. India currently has about 30,000 reefer containerized trucks, out of which maybe only 15-20% may be suitable for vaccine transportation in the frozen temperature range as of now. Cold chain companies have also added or are adding over 500 reefer trucks in anticipation of the vaccine surge. A lot of new companies are also starting up to providing only specialized transport vehicles to cold storage companies.

Leading distributors and stakeholders, therefore, need to step up and attempt to eliminate the knots in order to ensure effective supply chain management. The government additionally needs to ensure adequate funding to the sector and improve upon grassroots issues including reliable electricity supplies.

The silver lining – A dimension-changing opportunity

It may seem that it may be futile to the supply chain industry to invest heavily in cold storage only for the vaccines but it is imperative to realize the hidden opportunity that lies beneath this shortcoming. There lies ample opportunity for all cold storage involved players to divert their resources to industries such as fruits & vegetables, poultry, marine, meat, fish, milk & dairy products, etc. once the vaccines have rolled out and initial pressure subsides. The expansion of the cold chain is also a boon in disguise for Food industry and will mitigate the problem of wastage of perishable edible items in the long run. The opportunity is so huge that in coming years, the cold storage will play an irreplaceable role even in delivering fruits & vegetable to the trading mandis! To imagine adding cold storage to ones’ portfolio, a supply chain company can target other industries by manifold – adding to their portfolio as well as in their coffers!

The cold chain is key for any immunization program. The idea is to deliver the vaccine or other immunological products to the right people at the right place and at the right time under controlled conditions to ensure the product potency. In order to achieve this, cold chain management (CCM) requires standardized equipment and procedures. But, it doesn’t end there; once the vaccines are done, the industry partners will have a plethora of opportunities in other relative industries. The question is – Who all grab the opportunity first.