Building an effective cold-chain network for grass-root vaccinations in India

Anuraaga Chandra, Head, India Sales, Danfoss Climate Solutions explains about the need for diversifying the cold-chain infrastructure to keep the potency of vaccines intact
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Vaccine: An essential human commodity

Since 1796, when the world’s first approved vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in the fight against smallpox, there has been a need to develop technology to safely store these solutions to ensure a better healthcare system. The need to undertake these technological expeditions is due to the complex process of delivering vaccines all around the globe. Deciding factors such as temperature-controlled environments, transport and management of events that would help facilitate its arrival from one point to another are what form a cold-chain network needed for this life-saving tool to preserve its efficacy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 50 per cent of vaccines are wasted across the world. While vaccine wastage may be a natural occurrence due to human error, one of the glaring reasons that acts as a contributing factor is when they are placed in an environment below, or above a given temperature for a long period of time. With governments continuing their long-standing fight against the coronavirus, equal attention by businesses must be paid on building an effective cold-chain network for its timely delivery and administration.

The current state of affairs

While it is commonly reported for vaccines to be wasted during vaccination drives, the concern occurs when a country’s population as huge as India, is facing the same issue. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the national average in wastage levels was 6.5 per cent during the month of May 2021. This was reported even after the state governments mandated the wastage level be kept below one per cent.

As of August 2021, 50.9 crore doses have been administered in India but there is still a long way to go. While urban India has an advantage of easy connectivity and medical resources available at short distances, the same cannot be said about our rural regions. Challenges such as rugged terrains, poor infrastructure, low income and electricity add to the issues of people meeting their medical needs. Further to this, people are forced to migrate to urban centres just to attend to their health at high costs which invariably contributes to the spread of the virus. Hence, the last-mile connectivity with a robust cold chain infrastructure would help in achieving the vaccination targets without a steep price to pay in terms of vaccine wastage.

To keep the potency of vaccines intact, there is a need to diversify the cold-chain infrastructure. It is observed that India has cold chain units at two-to-eight degrees Celsius. However, given that the nation’s first and foremost goal is to get as many people vaccinated in a short span of time, sub-zero temperatures must be supported by cold-chain infrastructure too. In a country with intermittent supply of energy, it is vital to have an off-grid cold-chain network. While the vaccines certified for use in India would require refrigeration temperatures of two-to-eight degrees Celsius, to achieve this in itself is a highly complicated and critical challenge.

A prominent example where cold chain has played a crucial role in the international medical space is the storage of blood samples at temperatures between two-to-six degrees Celsius by the NHS in the United Kingdom. Products such as Optyma Plus condensing units help in providing the necessary environment for rare and specialised blood samples. These samples would be irreplaceable if correct temperature conditions were not maintained in research labs and medical facilities underscoring the importance of a robust cold-chain infrastructure.

Reefer trucks: The missing link
To build an effective vaccine cold chain that is also sustainable, requires cutting-edge technology across the board. This should encompass everything from the production facility of the vaccines, the interim storage facilities to the reefer trucks that deliver the vaccines to the final vaccination centres. For example, the reliability and system-wide thermodynamic efficiency improvement capability of Danfoss AC drives both ensuring a hygienic and controlled environment not only in reefers, but also in cold stores, food-processing plants, food retail outlets and throughout the entire cold chain.

The continuous monitoring of temperatures is essential for all critical HVAC solutions as it allows close monitoring of temperature with mobile solutions such as our “BD50F” line of compressors. Continuous monitoring is also essential to ensure quality and efficacy of the vaccine. Mobile reefer truck solutions will prove to be a gamechanger in the cold-chain network to help immunise the rural population of India.

Modern reefer trucks are as efficient and sustainable as they are effective in maintaining temperature. The cooling systems also use highly advanced electronic control systems to regulate temperatures within the truck even during peak loads while operating optimally during lesser load conditions which makes the overall system extremely energy-efficient. These efforts towards a sustainable approach are a testament to the manufacturing industry’s commitment towards quality and the environment.

Conclusion

With the end of the pandemic nowhere in sight and to prepare India for such health hazards in the future, a robust cold-chain infrastructure is of paramount importance. With a whopping 72 per cent of India’s population still residing in rural areas, the need for the country to effectively vaccinate this population is the key to overcoming this pandemic. To enable this grass-root level vaccination drives, the reefer trucks that transport vaccines safely, efficiently and sustainably are a key piece of the puzzle.

With the manufacturing industry’s commitment towards a healthier, safer and more sustainable future, India is fast becoming a global leader in public health

Anuraaga Chandracold-chain networkDanfoss Climate Solutionsgrass-root vaccinations
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