Upping the ante
For 30 years, countries have relied on the same system to store and transport vaccines safely from manufacturers to recipients - the “cold chain” keeps vaccines at controlled temperatures all along the way. As long as vaccines could be cheaply acquired in large quantities, this system worked, despite high rates of waste (more than 50 percent for some vaccines) and high maintenance costs.
As new vaccines arrive on the market, the landscape is changing. New vaccines can cost 100 times more than traditional ones. And technology innovations that protect these precious vaccines and reduce waste - such as single-dose vials and prefilled syringes - require significantly more space on trucks and in refrigerators, putting even more pressure on the system.
Counterbalancing this new stress on the cold chain is relief in other areas. Some of the vaccines that currently pass through the system are heat stable. The addition of the vaccine vial monitor, a small sticker that indicates exposure to heat, may mean that they can move out of the cold chain altogether.
The goal of project Optimize is to make sure the vaccine supply chain can meet these changing needs. PATH and WHO will work directly with countries to identify problems and test solutions that could have a global application. The ultimate goal? Building in flexibility and efficiency to of one of the world’s most important delivery systems.