IBM, Moderna Partner to Increase Vaccine Traceability

The companies hope increased traceability will help increase public trust in the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Need to Know

  • Moderna and IBM said they plan to investigate the use of blockchain and AI for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
  • The two companies hope the use of blockchain tech will provide better vaccine traceability for governments and healthcare providers by displaying the supply-chain status of vaccine batches.
  • IBM and Moderna previously partnered for Digital Health Pass, a blockchain-enabled tool that allows individuals to voluntarily show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or certification of vaccination.

Analysis

IBM and Moderna are partnering to explore how technologies, including blockchain and AI, can help governments track and manage their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.

In a press release announcing the partnership, the companies said they would be investigating solutions that provide end-to-end traceability, allowing governments and healthcare providers to securely share data about individual Moderna vaccine batches — including any supply chain disruptions — as they travel from manufacturing facilities to administration sites. A pilot, which will leverage IMB’s blockchain and AI tools, will introduce real-time tracking of vaccines, while investigating new uses of data-sharing between healthcare providers and government agencies, in order to streamline the vaccination process.

“If ever there was a time to rally around open technology and collaboration, it’s now,” Jason Kelley, managing partner and global strategic alliances leader for IBM, said in a statement. “As governments, pharmacy chains, healthcare providers and life sciences companies continue to scale and connect their tools, and as new players enter the supply chain, open technology can help drive more transparency and bolster trust, while helping to ensure accessibility and equity in the process.”

Both companies say more efficient data sharing could not only help streamline the vaccination process but also help increase public trust in the vaccine itself, which could thereby increase vaccination rates: 77% of US citizens are concerned about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and IMB hopes that its traceability and data-sharing tools will help eliminate this concern.

“Moderna is committed to working with a coalition of partners to increase education and awareness of the importance of vaccination to help defeat COVID-19,” said Michael Mullette, VP and managing director for North American commercial operations at Moderna. “We look forward to working with IBM to apply digital innovations to build connections between organizations, governments, and individuals to instill confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.”

The new collaboration between Moderna and IBM follows the launch of Digital Health Pass, a blockchain tool that allows private citizens to securely share their COVID-19 test or vaccination status. That tool, which is currently being piloted by the State of New York, allows users to choose what data they share (and what they don’t), and is an effort by the companies to “provide the foundation for a secure and interwoven ecosystem enabling governments, businesses, and people nationwide to power a safer, trusted transition to a post-pandemic reality,” according to Steve LaFleche, general manager, IBM public and federal market.

The new IBM-Moderna partnership is just the latest example of how tech companies are lending their resources to COVID-19 vaccine rollout efforts. In December of last year, Google added vaccine availability information to Search, and a month later, Cloudflare announced its Fair Shot Initiative, which provides digital waiting rooms for prospective vaccine recipients. Salesforce, which unveiled a vaccine distribution function through Work.com in September 2020, launched Vaccine Cloud, a platform to help healthcare companies and government agencies manage their vaccine rollout, in February. Salesforce has also partnered with Microsoft on a digital COVID-19 vaccine passport earlier this year.

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