Digital data loggers are small sensors used to monitor anything from temperature and humidity to pressure or voltage. These sensors can transmit the data they record digitally, send alerts, and work with other types of software to produce a comprehensive environmental monitoring program.
Digital data loggers might not be something you think about often, but, in 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine is surely on your mind in some way. And data loggers play a crucial role in almost every aspect of the vaccine lifecycle.
Below, we’ll help give you a better understanding of how digital data loggers are a vital part of the vaccine monitoring process at every stage, from research and development to production to distribution to deployment. Here is what you need to know about digital data loggers and vaccine monitoring.
Research and Development – R&D
As Dickson notes, digital data loggers are a foundation for several aspects of vaccine monitoring. The relationship between the device and the vaccine starts at the beginning of the process in the vaccine’s R&D phase.
Producing scientific results that lead to the development of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines is all about consistency. Scientists work hard to ensure that when they test different hypotheses and theories, the environmental conditions in each test are exactly the same.
Without a consistent environment, scientists won’t truly know whether the results of a given test are a result of what they are testing or due to environmental factors. This is why digital data loggers are so important in R&D.
Digital data loggers help ensure that everything from the heat and humidity in a laboratory to the extreme temperatures of deep freezers or ultra-high temperatures of ovens remains constant. When scientists don’t have to worry about fluctuating conditions, they can create vaccines at a faster pace, as they did with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Once scientists have worked in environmentally consistent laboratories and developed a functioning prototype–and have precisely tested outcomes of that prototype vaccine on both animals and humans–it is time to take their findings and turn them into a mass-produced, usable vaccine, pending FDA Emergency Use Authorization or, if time allows, approval. Digital data loggers are used in this step of the process as well.
The first two vaccines that were approved for use in the US were the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. Both these coronavirus-preventers use messenger RNA (mRNA). This biological material helps trigger a reaction from your immune system to create the antibodies needed to fight COVID-19.
It does this without having to inject actual coronavirus into your body. It is a safer way to vaccinate people. However, the mRNA material in vaccines is very sensitive and needs to be kept at a very cold temperature during production to maintain its effectiveness.
Digital data loggers help ensure production facilities maintain the needed temperature to keep the mRNA working. One way they do this is through temperature mapping. The digital data loggers are used in a production facility to create a comprehensive temperature map.
These maps help the production facility managers understand what the temperature is throughout their space and where problems might occur under different conditions. Temperature mapping uses many digital data loggers placed in a space over a set period of time and helps set up a temperature monitoring plan moving forward.
Getting vaccines from the production facilities and warehouses to the clinics and pharmacies that need them is one of the most important, and most difficult, parts of the vaccination effort. To get the vaccine doses where they need to go, the product moves through the cold supply chain, or simply the cold chain.
The cold chain is the term for the various ways that temperature-sensitive products get moved from Point A to Point B (and possibly points C, D, E, F, and more) in a temperature-controlled environment. In addition to vaccines, the cold chain is also frequently used in the distribution of products such as fresh and frozen food, chemicals, photographic film, and other pharmaceuticals.
Digital data loggers can be used in multiple ways in the cold chain. On a large-scale level, these devices can be used in the temperature-controlled holds of ships, planes, and trucks to make sure that the environmental conditions stay right for the cargo.
On a smaller scale, digital data loggers can be used to monitor individual batches of cargo to ensure they traverse the cold chain at the right temperature. These single-use digital data loggers travel with the vaccines and provide cold chain managers with a much more precise picture of the temperature as the vaccine moves from production facility to deployment site.
The last step in the COVID-19 vaccine’s journey from idea to your arm is the deployment of the vaccine. In this step, doses need to be stored at the correct temperature and then thawed out before they are administered to patients. Unsurprisingly, digital data loggers play a role in this part of the process as well.
In this portion of the journey, a digital data loggers’ ability to provide customized alerts or warnings can come into play. Digital data loggers are commonly used to monitor the freezers and other storage areas where the doses are kept. If these spaces dip below an acceptable temperature range, medical professionals can be instantly alerted and can immediately address any potential temperature issue.
Since the doses also need to be thawed to a prescribed temperature before they are administered, digital data loggers can also be used to monitor these temperatures. Sending alerts when the vaccines are ready to go can help the entire vaccination process run more smoothly.
The COVID-19 vaccines are helping society get past the horrible events of the past year-plus and start to get back to normal. Digital data loggers are a key part of this process from the beginning to the end. Without these devices, the vaccination efforts might still be possible but the process would be much more difficult, more labor-intensive, and costlier. Luckily, we do have digital data loggers, making the process much easier than it would have been at any other point in history.