History has proven the power of vaccines. Today, immunization against potential pandemics reaches more than 80% of children worldwide and saves 2 million to 3 million lives each year, thanks to national governments and the work of transnational organizations such as UNICEF, Gavi, Médecins Sans Frontières, the World Health Organization, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The eventual discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine will undoubtedly arm the world with a powerful tool to defeat the virus.
However, history has also shown us that a vaccine in itself is not a panacea. Its development will be the beginning of a long fight against a virus that has spread at a breakneck speed across more than 150 countries. To win the fight, we will need to immunize 60% to 70% of all individuals. This will not only require massive manufacturing and logistic capabilities but also strong cold-chain systems.
As most are temperature sensitive, their transport and storage require constant refrigeration along the entire supply-chain. Solutions to transport and store vaccines in tropical weather conditions have existed since 1979. New innovative technologies and advanced features have emerged since then. There exist today vaccine refrigerators resistant to abrupt voltage spikes and cold chain equipment powered by solar panels.
Despite these technological innovations, vaccines are still wasted today because of temperature control and related logistics. The problem is that many health centers in low- and middle-income countries don’t have adequate vaccine cold-chain systems.
While the world is waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine, it is high time to think ahead and join forces in arming the most vulnerable countries with the reliable cold chain equipment they will need to bring the pandemic under control.