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Blockchain for Covid vaccine storage implemented by UK hospitals in world first


When it comes to keeping tabs on the Covid-19 vaccination process, blockchain is the new kid on the block.

Like many medications, the Covid-19 vaccine is temperature sensitive, and as such, must be stored under the right conditions.

In one of the first such initiatives in the world, two UK hospitals are utilising blockchain, not only to track and monitor the Covid-19 vaccine process, but keep a watchful eye over the movement and storage of the drug, among others.

Hospitals in Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick are using the distributed ledger tech to track not only the fridges that store the Covid vaccine, but chemotherapy drugs too.

The NHS is being assisted by blockchain firms Everyware and Texas-based ledger Hedera. But despite the professionals on hand, the process comes with many logistical hurdles which could significantly slow the distribution of vaccines.

One the one hand, blockchain technology could allow safer distribution of the vaccine across the country, with less risk of potentially life-threatening mistakes.

However, both fortunately and unfortunately, there are several different types of vaccine currently in circulation, all of which with different storage requirements and temperature demands. And this is where blockchain comes in.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine must be shipped at speed and must be refrigerated to maintain a temperature of 2-8°C. The vaccine can then be stored for up to five days. However, the Moderna vaccine requires no cold storage, making delivery easier, but coming with a different set of logistical challenges.

Due to the special care and attention required by these vaccines, blockchain is a viable solution, but this unfortunately leaves data vulnerable to hackers and malicious actors.

“Last year the UK gov centralised contact tracing app failed because of privacy concerns. Now, the general public, not just privacy geeks, understand that the decentralised approaches give them the best protection. We all want to stay healthy, but we want a say in how our sensitive info gets retained and used,” said Peter Ferry, director at Wallet.Services.

“We’re entering an era where individual and community work, travel, and interaction hinge on this health and inoculation status. This requires co-operation between governments, health authorities, industries, transport at scale.

“Shared (distributed) ledgers come into their own in addressing these big challenges – they provide trust between people and organisations. They help us be confident that all this verification is reliable, that we can trust its source, while still retain control and confidentiality over sensitive details.

“As the Covid crisis drives the remaining ‘in person’ and paper-based interactions online, it looks like the broad spectrum of distributed ledger tech is coming of age in making distributed data and credential sharing part of societies’ infrastructure.”

And Covid related hacking isn’t a recent issue either. On multiple occasions throughout 2020, vaccine research was targeted by state hackers attempting steal information on distribution networks and research.

In early December, according to IBM, what were believed to be nation-state hackers organised a sophisticated spear-phishing attack against vaccine ‘cold supply’ networks.

This is believed to be an attempt to disrupt the services crucial to distribution. Not only was the UK targeted, but American and Canadian vaccine research and development organisations too.

And penny for my thoughts, but this is a global pandemic, therefore anyone trying to disrupt the resolution to this misery currently affecting EVERYBODY, quite frankly needs their head checked.

Sans aforementioned head check, in early December last year, a campaign led by IBM revealed that hackers, believed to be acting on behalf of a nation-state, organised a sophisticated spear-phishing campaign against vaccine ‘cold supply’ networks.

While vaccines were in the development stages around the world, hackers believed to be backed by the Russian state, known as ‘APT29’ attempted to steal vital Covid-19 data.

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