Vaccine Transport Stop Vaccines Waste – Take a Look at the Transport Chain!

Editor: Dominik Stephan

India's vaccine industry ranks third in terms of volume globally in the world. Yet the question remains of why deaths are being reported even after immunization against a disease. One of the reasons for this is the improper transport of vaccines which cause the vaccine to lose its effectiveness. Use of phase change materials (PCMs) can help reduce vaccine wastage during transportation.

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Cross-section of a freezer depicting use of phase change materials (PCMs)
Cross-section of a freezer depicting use of phase change materials (PCMs)
(Picture: Pluss Polymers)

It has been three years without any fresh cases of Polio; India has officially eliminated the much dreaded disease effective January 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, inter alia saw the two countries agreeing to collaborate in developing affordable vaccines to combat dengue, malaria, and tuberculosis. The mission now is to make India disease free with respect to these dreaded diseases and a crucial step in this regard is to make vaccines available to all.

The India Newborn Action Plan was launched last month. It is an impressive plan to reduce neonatal deaths. Vaccination at birth and through the first 5 years will play the most important role for helping India meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG4) target, which is to be met by December 2015.

One in Five Children Does not get Basic Vaccines

By preventing up to three million deaths and protecting more than 100 million lives from illness and disability, vaccines are one of the best investments in health. With a mission to save children’s lives and protect people’s health, WHO, UN and NGOs are working overtime across the world. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has reportedly donated $1.5 billion as of January 2013, to enhance the access to immunization in poor countries.

Vaccine industry in India is valued at $26 billion and ranks third in terms of volume globally in the world. New vaccines are being invented to fight more diseases. Paradoxically, one in every five children does not receive even the basic vaccines. More importantly and of grave concern is the fact that deaths are being reported even after immunization against disease. Rather than treatment of newborn children who get afflicted with diseases, we need to prevent the disease in the first place. As with any problem; the root cause needs to be analyzed: What causes this unavailability and loss of product efficacy?

Temperature Control – Essential for Vaccines Transport

Vaccines contain live cultures. Needless to say, inability to protect vaccines from temperature excursions leads to its degradation and loss of efficacy of the vaccine. Nearly 70 per cent of the vaccines are temperature sensitive, i.e., it loses its effect if exposed to temperatures beyond its recommended limits. WHO has delineated the three broad temperature ranges namely: refrigerated (2°C to 8°C), frozen (-15°C to -25°C) and controlled room temperature (15°C to 25°C).

India experiences various seasonal changes and extremes in temperature ranging from -4°C up to 45°C. In areas with frequent electricity outage, it is an arduous task to maintain cold storages. This also adds up to the energy expense. In remote areas, with limited connectivity, there is a need for a vaccine transport solution that reduces reliance on electricity and power supply, and is easily available to make transport of vaccines viable for longer durations.