Keeping temperature-sensitive vaccines safe requires reliable electricity, sound roads and planning
GAMPELA, Burkina Faso – From factory to syringe, the world’s most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates need nonstop sterile refrigeration to work.
But despite great strides in equipping developing countries to maintain the vaccine “cold chain,” nearly 3 billion of the world's 7.8 billion people live in places with insufficient temperature-controlled storage for an immunization campaign to bring COVID-19 under control.
The result: Poor people around the world are likely to be the last to emerge from the pandemic. The cold chain hurdle is just the latest disparity of the pandemic weighted against the poor, who more often live and work in conditions that allow the virus to spread and whose health systems are not equipped for large-scale testing.
Maintaining the cold chain for coronavirus vaccines won’t be easy in the richest of countries, especially when it comes to the handful of candidates that require ultracold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 F). Logistics experts say most of Africa and much of Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Latin America lack the infrastructure to preserve even more conventional vaccines.
A tiny medical clinic outside Burkina Faso's capital that went nearly a year without a working refrigerator is a microcosm of how the cold chain can break.
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