Harborough district company in the running for top award for its part in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout

"I’m extraordinarily proud of my whole team for the work they have done," said the firm's president

By Red Williams
Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 12:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 12:46 pm
Movinato team member at the ultra low temperature freezers for the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
Movinato team member at the ultra low temperature freezers for the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

A south Leicestershire-based healthcare logistics firm which helped to fire up the UK’s brilliant Covid-19 vaccine rollout is in the running to win a top award for its lifesaving work.

A team at Movianto has been helping to carry out the enormous logistical operation at their new coronavirus vaccine distribution centre in the Harborough district.

They were asked by the Government at the height of the two-year pandemic’s first wave in early 2020 to develop the supply line and central storage arrangements for the UK’s massive vaccination programme.

“Vaccine distribution is what we do day in, day out.

“But even we had to take a deep breath at times,” said Paul Wilkinson, president of Movianto UK.

“At the start, we didn’t even know the storage criteria.

“We weren’t aware of what the volume would be and as importantly we didn’t know when this programme was likely to start.

“But we did know that we’d have to do it at breakneck speed and we knew people’s lives would be relying on it,” he said.

“There was a lot of pressure on everyone.”

Movianto began preparing for every scenario imaginable amid huge uncertainty.

“Working with Public Health England, we were planning for every eventuality and believe me there were many of them to consider,” said Paul.

“With the Pfizer-BioNTech product, we had to develop the supply line and storage arrangements for a vaccine that was completely new to the world, which had to be stored and transported, in bulk and small quantities, at the staggeringly low temperature of -75°C.

“And then we had to accommodate another two new vaccines as well, in Moderna’s, which is stored at -20°C, and AstraZeneca’s, which is chilled, which is more like the vaccines available before the pandemic.”

Movianto is part of the Walden Group, which was founded in the south of France in 1951 and has its headquarters in Paris.

The big global company is usually responsible for children’s routine vaccinations and large parts of the seasonal flu programme for the NHS.

Since 2005 Movianto has stored, coordinated, and distributed the long-standing vaccines, such as the MMR, polio and diphtheria, all year-round.

And each September to November, it makes sure hospitals and doctors’ surgeries all over the country have the annual flu boosters they need to protect their most vulnerable patients.

“I’ve worked in logistics for more than 30 years - and it’s safe to say the Covid vaccine operation has been the biggest challenge of my life,” said Paul.

“But I’m extraordinarily proud of my whole team for the work they have done.

“We’ve had to be creative, resilient and tenacious to make it happen. “And we continue to be working at maximum speed to get the booster campaign rolled out now too.

“It would be fabulous for the team – including those working out of our south Leicestershire dedicated Covid-19 vaccine centre - to receive some recognition for what they’ve done.

“Because our job is behind the scenes, it can be overlooked.

“But without their skills, hard work and determination, this couldn’t have been half as successful,” added Paul.

Movianto’s highly-skilled staff in Britain went straight into overdrive in a whirlwind six months after the Covid crisis struck the UK.

They worked round the clock to design an entirely new deep-frozen cold-chain mass vaccination storage and distribution service.

And the firm had to build a new dedicated Covid vaccination storage centre in Harborough district for new types of vaccines never used or distributed to anyone before.

Movianto also had to rejig, repurpose, and refit one of its warehouses in the north.

Their experts had to re-engineer all their IT systems so they could be compatible with the NHS’s ordering processes and streamline the operation.

The company also had to draft in a new fleet of specialist vehicles to reach hundreds of outlets in the NHS vaccination network.

The widespread circuit includes 267 hospital hubs, 204 centres run by pharmacies, 1,036 GP run outlets and 117 mass vaccination centres.

Movianto also had to “source and acquire hundreds of Ultra-Low-Temperature (ULT) laboratory quality freezers, thousands of specialist cool boxes, -21°C gel packs, and kilos upon kilos of dry ice (353,000 at the last count).”

The company also set out to recruit more methodical and dedicated people from all over the East Midlands to work at their new south Leicestershire supply centre as the bold blueprint dramatically picked up pace.

And to cap off a breath-taking two years at the Covid pandemic sharp end, Movianto is now a finalist in the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Awards for Excellence 2021.

The other finalists are DHL and Kuehne+Nage.

Delighted staff at Movianto’s highly-successful Harborough hub will find out later this month if they have been crowned the prestigious competition’s winner.