World

Coronavirus vaccine storage issues could leave 3 billion people without access

PHOTO CREDITS: ASSOCIATED PRESS

According to the Associated Press, every promising Coronavirus candidate needs 24/7 refrigeration right from the factory to syringe to stay potent and safe. 

However, out of 7.8 billion people, 3 billion live in a location where temperature controlled storage is insufficient for carrying out immunization campaigns to bring the pandemic under control. Maintaining the cold chain for coronavirus vaccines is a challenge even for the richest of countries, especially the ones requiring ultracold temperatures. The investment in medical infrastructure cooling technology is unable to keep pace with the leap of vaccine development taken this year.

In the eighth month of the pandemic, the logistics experts warned that the vast parts of the world lack refrigeration to carry out an effective vaccination program. This includes most of Central Asia, much of India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and much of Africa.

A medical clinic outside Burkina Faso has been unable to have a working refrigerator for a year. After its refrigerator broke last fall, the clinic is no longer able to keep vaccines of Tetanus, yellow fever, or tuberculosis, according to Nurse Julienne Zougrana. The hospital staff instead used motorbikes to fetch vials in insulated carriers from a hospital in Ouagadougou, making 40-minute motor trips on a narrow road that varies between dirt, gravel, and pavement. 

In poor countries like Burkina Faso, the best chance of receiving a vaccine is through the Covax initiative led by WHO. The Covax initiative has the goal to place orders for multiple promising vaccine candidates and to advocate successful ones equitably.

According to WHO, at the present time, 42 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in clinical trials and another 151 are in preclinical evaluation, all of which are most likely to be in a Covax mix and must be stored in at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees celsius.

A Pfizer candidate is among the vaccine trials in advanced testing requiring storage at ultracold temperatures. The company which has designed special carrying cases for its vaccine has expressed interest in Covax and signed contracts with the UN, Europe, and Japan.

Medical freezers that go down to -70 degrees Celsius are rare even in the United States and European hospitals.  

According to experts,  the West African countries that suffered through the 124 -16 Ebola outbreak may be the best positioned, since the vaccine against the virus also required ultracold storage.

ARTICLE: EJAZ SHAIKH

EDITOR: KYLE SMITH

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