HD-OCP Vaccin AstraZeneca 146 © Franck DUNOUAU
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OCP begins delivering COVID vaccines

From this week, all outlets in the OCP network will begin to receive AstraZeneca vaccines - the start of a new phase of activation in the fight against COVID-19.

This article has been translated and adapted from the original in French: OCP a distribué ses 152 000 premières doses de vaccins AstraZeneca

Following work to make masks and gel available, pharmaceutical distribution is once again rolling up its sleeves to help put an end to the health crisis alongside pharmacists and all other health professionals. 

The first wave of AstraZeneca COVID vaccines were received at the beginning of the week by several OCP customers across France. So far, 152,550 doses have been distributed to more than 3,400 community pharmacies enabling doctors to administer them to their patients (currently those aged 50 to 64 years with comorbidities).

"This is a very important moment for all the OCP teams who are organized and ready to ensure these first distributions of AstraZeneca vaccines," explains Véronique Jung, chief pharmacist at OCP. 

The OCP teams are responsible for storing the vaccines between 2 and 8 degrees and preparing the orders for delivery in response to orders placed by doctors via pharmacies. 

The vaccines require highly delicate handling and OCP had to urgently review its processes, given their specific requirements and the expectations of authorities and patients, the still limited quantities and the targeted distribution to doctors.

Delivery also requires sensitivity, because the vials are not like other products and are very fragile to handle. This is where the know-how of the wholesaler-distributor is essential. 

OCP teams, used to managing cold chain requirements such as those for flu vaccines, have to deal with even more constraints for AstraZeneca vials. “We must not only ensure that the cold chain is respected, keep the vials straight and vertical to avoid contact between the liquid and the stopper, we also need to protect the vaccines from light and avoid shaking them,” explains Véronique Jung.

To comply with all these parameters, OCP has implemented a special solution: cardboard packaging in which perforated foam is placed. Each "hole" accommodates a bottle, so as to isolate them well and thus protect them from jolts and keep them upright during transportation to the pharmacy.

Each of the cardboard packings is placed in a box, along with the rest of the order placed by the pharmacy. Once arrived safely, the pharmacist immediately places his bottles in the refrigerated cabinet. The doctor will then come to collect his allowance to vaccinate ten of his patients. He then has six hours, at room temperature (up to 30 degrees), to vaccinate ten patients.

The role of pharmaceutical distribution "is essential " in the anti-COVID vaccination campaign, underlines Véronique Jung, with "a key role to play in ensuring the fluid supply of vaccines throughout the territory.” 

OCP, a leader in the French pharmaceutical distribution market (around 31% market share), has, like all other pharmaceutical distributors in the country, been exceptionally authorized by the public authorities to unpack boxes of ten bottles for delivery. On average, four to five bottles were ordered per pharmacy during this first delivery.

Deliveries will intensify in the coming weeks, as manufacturers increase their production capacity. 

It is Santé Publique France (SPF) which purchases and manages the vaccines on behalf of the government. SPF solicits, via a public contract, three pharmaceutical depositories to ensure logistics (Alloga, Geodis and Arvato). These depositories deliver to 180 pharmaceutical distribution centres. The seven distribution companies, including OCP, are organized to receive vaccines and supply community pharmacies. The pharmacies then deliver them to voluntary doctors to vaccinate or the doctors come to collect the doses at the pharmacy.

This first delivery is intended for doctors, who are at this stage the only ones authorized to vaccinate (pending the green light for pharmacists to vaccinate). They must first contact a so-called “referral” pharmacy so that the pharmacy can register them on the online declaration portal. The needs are calculated based on feedback from pharmacists.

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