When lives are at stake, there is no time to lose. With researchers ramping up efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, progress has been achieved at unprecedented speed. In just two months, the first vaccine candidate entered clinical trials. A first in history. While vaccine development is advancing by leaps and bounds, it is high time to put in similar efforts to prepare for the next step. Now more than ever the world needs to double down on immunization and come together to be fully prepared to efficiently deploy the vaccine as soon as it is proven safe and efficient.
In a recent article published in Harvard Business Review, Seth Berkley (Gavi), together with Rebecca Weintraub (Harvard Medical School) and Prashant Yadav (INSEAD, Center for Global Development) have urged the world to start planning for an equally expedited distribution and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine.
B Medical Systems strongly believes in ensuring herd immunity and therefore supports an equitable vaccine distribution to unleash its power. For over 40 years, we have been helping Gavi, the Gates Foundation and other global purchasing humanitarian organizations deliver safe and efficient vaccines to the most vulnerable and isolated communities of the world building resistance against some of the most harmful diseases the world over. Today, in light of the global fight against COVID-19, we are putting our experience and network to work with innovative solutions to help achieve the priorities set forth in this article by Rebecca Weintraub, Prashant Yadav and Seth Berkley.
Financing the purchasing of vaccines
To help countries introduce new vaccines into their national immunization campaigns, Gavi co-finances a portion of the vaccine costs. Yet, “while Gavi can provide some limited financing from its current resources, it’s not enough to address this need [of deploying a new COVID-19 vaccine]”. B Medical Systems is testing new financing mechanisms with the intention of reducing the financial burden on governments striving to strengthen their national cold chain without impairing the reliability of the cold chain, which is key to achieving an optimal outcome. Including a program which provides countries with limited funding the opportunity to pay in smaller installments over the 10-year lifetime of the equipment. On top of that, the payments are conditional on performance. This guarantees stronger cold chain systems alongside with additional financial savings that can be injected into the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine.
B Medical Systems has also established strong collaborations with other multilateral agencies, allowing low-income countries to acquire high-performing cold chain equipment and ensure the success of their national immunization campaigns. Agencies like the Office du Ducroire in Luxembourg provide assistance to countries and governments to support their financial needs on a case-by-case basis.
Strengthening and protecting the health care workforce
As the pandemic has been challenging the supply of personal protective equipment for the health workers who put their lives at risk to save others, a brilliant initiative was set up in Luxembourg to alleviate the shortage. Volunteers mobilized across the country to equip the workforces on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 with 3D printed face shields. Usually used by our R&D team to develop prototypes, our 3D printer has been running at full speed in support of the initiative. Even though the activity is far from our core business, it serves our mission of saving lives. B Medical Systems would be keen to offer the production of life-saving protective equipment to Gavi and other organizations at no cost.
In the most off-grid regions of the world, or in countries engulfed in instability, the conditions in which health care is provided are sometimes very difficult. Access to electricity is unstable or unavailable, and solar energy is often more reliable than electricity supply. Frequently the sun is strong enough to power vaccine refrigerators and freezers, as well as other medical equipment. B Medical Systems’ health center kit uses excess electricity from solar panels to secure basic needs such as lighting, ventilation, mobile phones, and DC supplies. The tool provides vital assistance and comfort in the harshest environments.
Establishing reliable supply chains
Managing vaccine supply-chains in developing countries is challenging. Leaving them behind could cause calamities. New technologies can help reach communities at greatest needs with the future potent COVID-19 vaccine.
Voltage instability is a big challenge in developing countries, where vaccine refrigerators die one after another. The abrupt spikes can be destructive for electrical devices. We already provide ice-lined refrigerators resistant to these power fluctuations in a significant range of 40V to 415V without any damage. Our patent-pending technology improves both the safe storage and the operating performance of the refrigerators.
In the most off-grid communities, Solar Direct Drive technology helps store temperature-sensitive vaccines in optimal conditions. The equipment works straight from solar panels and has an extended autonomy. Even on less sunny days, an SDD refrigerator is able to keep vaccines at the exact right temperature for a period of up to one month. Our latest innovation introduced in the market are the Ultra 16 SDD designed for extensive bad weather periods, and the vaccine carrier RCW1 offering a 24/7 protection against freezing.
When the first COVID-19 vaccine will be proven safe and efficient, it is likely that the initial supply will be limited and will not meet global demand immediately. Every single dose will be precious. To make sure that each dose reaches a patient, governments can rely on remote temperature monitoring solutions. B Medical Systems’ RMTDs come with a 10-year free communication. They offer real-time tracking of the temperature and insights into preventive maintenance and performance anomalies of all units across the country. In high-risk countries like Afghanistan, this functionality – together with the GPS localization – prevents putting lives at risk for unnecessary maintenance work. Additionally it provides an alternative to the functionality test (commissioning) that must be conducted up to 72 hours after each installation, when the equipment is running at stable temperature. Avoiding health authorities to go on site saves time and money.
Through its reliable and innovative technology, B Medical Systems has been supporting many countries to fight epidemics. By offering the lowest total cost of ownership across its products, B Medical Systems aims to reduce the burden of the cold chain on countries and ultimately save more lives.
Together we can win this fight!