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COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Challenges Put These Stocks in Focus

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The much-anticipated coronavirus vaccines are finally on the horizon. U.S. drug giant Pfizer and Germany-based biotech company, BioNTech recently claimed that their vaccine is 95% effective in late-stage trials. Preliminary clinical trial data from the U.S. biotech firm Moderna found a similar level of efficacy in its vaccine. While such announcements are sparking hopes of a return to normal life, big hurdles over storage, logistics and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines persist.

Vaccine Distribution to be a Daunting Task

Both the vaccines contain messenger RNA that must be stored in ultra-cool temperatures to remain effective. Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine candidate needs to be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, while Moderna’s vaccine will remain stable at a relatively less temperature of minus four degrees Fahrenheit. It would require ultra-cold storage trucks and specialised equipment, along with detailed logistical plans as well as tools to enable effective vaccine distribution.

This will soon give way to supply-chain challenges. The deadly pandemic has highlighted the global supply chain weakness, forcing companies to ramp up and modernise their logistics chain. Once the vaccines receive approval, the onus will primarily lie on the specialised equipment providers and logistic carriers, which will play a critical role in immunizing the public against the coronavirus.

While pharma companies are working tirelessly to develop COVID-19 vaccines, various firms across the supply chain stand to benefit from the opportunities arising from vaccine approval.

Cold-Chain Storage Solution Providers’ Moves

Trane Technologies plc (TT - Free Report) : Thermo King, a subsidiary of Trane Technologies, has expanded its portfolio of storage solutions with intelligent end-to-end temperature controlled cold chain solutions to meet the demand for vaccine shipments. A couple of months back, the company launched Cold Storage Solutions, which can maintain temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius and prevent degradation of vaccination by offering ‘unbroken’ link to cold chain solutions for effective distribution of vaccine. Trane Technologies currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Carrier Global Corporation (CARR - Free Report) : This Zacks Rank #2 firm recently launched the Healthy, Safe, Sustainable Cold Chain Program to make cold chain activities more productive. The new program will ensure safe vaccine distribution, and enhance end-to-end chain visibility and intelligence with superior technological solutions. Last month, it also collaborated with Amazon Web Services to co-develop the Lynx digital platform, which would help in increasing efficiency through multiple stages of refrigerated storage and distribution.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (TMO - Free Report) : Refrigerators and cooling technology will turn out to be one of the next big things to fight against the pandemic. Healthcare company Thermo Fisher, which is also a manufacturer of ultra-low temperature freezers, will benefit from soaring demand for vaccine refrigerators. The company’s high-performance freezers equipped to handle temperature-sensitive vaccines for long periods will be a major booster. The company presently carries a Zacks Rank #2.

Vial Makers to Play a Vital Role

Vial manufacturers are girding to meet the mounting demand for tiny cylindrical bottles to fill the vaccine doses. A few players worth a mention include Corning Incorporated (GLW - Free Report) and West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc. (WST - Free Report) . While the latter carries a Zacks Rank #2, Corning is a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) firm. Corning has expanded the manufacturing capacity of its Valor glass vials, which will play a key role in protecting the vaccines from cracks and impurities. The company received $204M in funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to ramp up the production of Valor glass packaging for enabling effective packaging, as well as distribution of vaccines. West Pharmaceutical — which develops vials, test tubes and other critical equipment — is also expanding its production capacity and stands to gain from the surging demand.

Logistics Carriers Ready to Save the World

Logistics operators are getting ready to take on the mammoth task of distribution of hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines to final destinations. United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS - Free Report) , FedEx Corporation (FDX - Free Report) and Deutsche Post AG are gearing up to play essential roles in vaccine distribution and ensure that there is no transportation logjam. The companies are expanding the capacity of freezer farms, which are the standard facilities for storing and cooling medical supplies.

United Parcel Service: United Parcel Service — which currently holds a Zacks Rank #2 — is actively scaling its freezer capacity by developing freezer farms that are strategically located in Kentucky, Netherlands, Louisville and Venlo. The farms will house around 600 freezers, each having the capacity to hold 48,000 vials of vaccine. The freezers, which are certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are equipped to store vaccines at as low as negative 80 degrees Celsius. Additional freezer capacity is likely to be installed in the United Kingdom, Germany and South America. Further, UPS Premier will ensure additional control during transit and offer continuous visibility.

FedEx: FedEx — which sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) — is likely to be one of the frontrunners in transporting the vaccines across the world. The air-freight behemoth has pledged that it will free up whatever cargo capacity is needed to effectively distribute the vaccines.  The company’s cold chain network, expansive fleet of refrigerated trucks and vast experience to move cold chain goods position it well to deliver life-saving shipments. FedEx’s new technological tools that provide real-time information about temperature and shipment will give it a leg up in the competition.

Deutsche Post: DHL Gobal Forwarding — a subsidiary of Deutsche Post —has eight cold chain facilities in the United States, including a recently opened center in Indianapolis. The company is actively expanding its temperature-controlled transport capabilities. Cold storage freezers and enhanced technology systems to track temperature-sensitive packages will help it in the efficient distribution of vaccines.

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