Cold chains, interrupted: The use of technology and information for decisions that keep humanitarian vaccines cool

Tina Comes*, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, Bartel Van de Walle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)
807 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to analyze how far technology and information enable, facilitate or support the planning and implementation decisions in humanitarian vaccine cold chains for vaccination campaigns. The authors specifically focus on three emerging technologies that have the potential to create more flexible conditions in the field, and identify the need to further explore the link between uncertainty, information and irreversibility. Design/methodology/approach: The authors present a basic structure for the analysis of cold chain disruptions in terms of three distinct yet connected layers of deficient infrastructure and capacity, information gaps and failures in decision making. The authors then review three humanitarian technologies and their impact on vaccine campaigns along these layers. From there, a research agenda is developed to address research gaps this review brought forward. Findings: Three critical research gaps in the areas of technology innovation for humanitarian vaccine cold chain management are presented. The authors argue that technology to improve capacity, information and decisions need to be aligned, and that the areas of uncertainty, information and irreversibility require further investigation to achieve this alignment. In this way, the paper contributes to setting the research agenda on vaccine cold chains and connects humanitarian logistics to technology, information management and decision making. Originality/value: This paper presents the humanitarian vaccine cold chain problem from an original angle by illuminating the implications of technology and information on the decisions made during the planning and implementation phases of a vaccine campaign. The authors develop an agenda to provide researchers and humanitarians with a perspective to improve cold chain planning and implementation at the intersection of technology, information and decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-69
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Cold chain
  • Humanitarian technology
  • Information management
  • Irreversible decisions
  • Uncertainty
  • Vaccine campaign


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