In developing nations across the globe, the challenges of distributing vaccines remain a huge roadblock in eradicating diseases that many other parts of the world have already eliminated. The lack of adequate medical centers, lack of access to clinics and lack of stock make vaccinations a tricky and almost impossible task to make universal. Amongst these challenges is the challenge of keeping the vaccines viable in often-harsh climates with a lack of adequate preservation technology available.

Vaccines, to maintain their viability and ensure proper vaccination, often need to be kept cold, a task that increases in difficulty with the combination of high temperatures and inadequate access to electricity. While scientists continue to work on creating cost-effective thermostable vaccines that would facilitate widespread distribution in areas where keeping the vials cold is a challenge, a study conducted by Devex reveals that there might be other options for the interim.

The study found that improving cold and supply chains is a more direct and cost-effective way to directly improve vaccine viability and thus more effective distribution, at least for right now. Devex has formulated a set of guidelines as follows:

1. Define the full range of thermostability of existing vaccines — By defining this range and making it easily accessible and viewable to people distributing the vaccines, they have clearer guidelines to focus on and can be more careful about making sure that the vaccines they administer have not been altered due to excessive change in temperature.

2. Set thermostability goals — This means that for newer vaccines being developed, a goal of heat stability or freeze protection can be incorporated into the development.

3. Focus on improving cold chain infrastructure and supply chain system design — This goal in particular is more of a short-term, direct impact step towards keeping system costs and coverage low and also towards setting a standard of thermostability for the future.

4. Keep monitoring for innovative technologies — For long-term progress in vaccine accessibility and effectiveness, this goal is immensely important. Technology is ever changing and new ideas should be frequently welcomed and tested to ensure that if there is a way to improve vaccine distribution, it is being done.

One of the advantages of these guidelines is that they are aimed at nearly every step of the process, from development to post-implementation monitoring. As companies and programs embrace these goals and incorporate them into their own plans of action, they are making progressive steps towards bridging public health inequities, particularly in vaccinations. While the World Health Organization has recently made tremendous strides in enacting governmental programs to ensure regular vaccination of children, even more progress can be made by targeting the distribution level of vaccination. The implementation of programs and continued technological innovation is a winning combination for achieving universal vaccination, but can also serve as a model for other public health initiatives.

Emma Dowd

Sources: Devex, Infection Control Today
Photo: City of Hope