Revolutionizing Cold Storage for Vaccines
After a year of uncertainty, we will finally be free of the COVID-19 threat in the near future as vaccines are already getting distributed across the globe, specifically the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Astrazenica, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Sputnik V and Johnson & Johnson vaccines which have proven between 50% to 90% efficacious in clinical trials.
However, countries have one more hurdle to go through before they can get their hands on any of the COVID-19 vaccines: storage and transportation. You see, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine require specific long-term storage temperatures, with Pfizer at -70°C and Moderna at -20 °C. Both can be stored in regular refrigerators, as well, although they will only last for shorter periods that is not great for transporting to long distances.
Because of this, rolling out the vaccines, especially to developing countries with sparse technology, is a major issue. However, experts believe that the strict requirements of the COVID-19 vaccine is just what these countries needed to significantly boost their cold chain capacity and attract investments.
They do warn to avoid using quick but dirty solutions for vaccine distribution. These include powering fridges with diesel generators and using refrigerants that contribute to global warming.
Instead of these solutions, experts say that we need to look into long-term solutions and consider its future implications to the environment. For one, governments can invest in storage projects that can be later be transformed into a cold chain for farm produce. Not only will this help distribute the vaccines easily, but it will also be impactful to the hundreds of farmers who regularly lose about 30-50% of their profit due to lack of cold storage.
Additionally, the UNEP-led Cool Coalition is rallying industry experts and academics to help developing countries learn more about sustainable cold chains both for agricultural produce and vaccines. With this, they will not rely on dirty solutions and instead, look into a greener way of handling the vaccine.