In our first Sure Thoughts article, we make the case that responding to the next outbreak isn’t just about investing in innovations to develop vaccines. CEPI must ensure that an effective cold chain is in place to reach people safely and the programme is a success. Read on for our thoughts, with opinion from the inventor of Sure Chill Technology, Ian Tansley.
This week at the World Economic Forum, the Norweigan, Japanese and German governments, the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation announced that they were putting $460 million into CEPI, The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, an initiative to prepare the world for the next epidemic.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will invest in innovations to accelerate the development of vaccines needed to contain outbreaks.
The world is not currently equipt to deal with the emergence of the next pathogen, but the development of vaccines is only part of the solution. CEPI must consider the cold chain and how the vaccines will be delivered on large scale, to everyone who needs them, safely.
Talking of CEPI, The Guardian quotes, “one of the key aims of CEPI will be to ensure the vaccines are affordable and accessible to all who need them”. In order for this to happen and to provide the world with safe, effective vaccines, the cold chain is absolutely essential to its success.
Talking about importance of an effective cold chain, Ian Tansley tell us, “All vaccines are thermo-sensitive and need to be properly stored and distributed within an effective cold chain. The cold chain is the least attractive for funding opportunties and largely overlooked. Think of a railroad analogy, everyone wants to be part of building the shiny train instead of the tracks that they run on,” Ian explains, “But the cold chain is absolutely essential to the success of the CEPI programme and it needs to be built on solid foundations: not using after-thought equipment that just isn’t fit for purpose. That’s what’s been happening since the beginning of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in 1977. Radical new thinking is needed.”
Thermo-sensitive vaccines lose potency on exposure to heat above 8C, and are affected when exposed to freezing temperatures .The damage is irreversible and can adversely impact anyone administered with the affected vaccines. It’s crucial that vaccines are stored at the ideal temperature range of 2-8C to avoid any wastage. Many developing countries have indequate cold chains – which means that optimal temperature-control mechanisms for the transport, storage and handling of vaccines are not in place. Approximately $750 million worth of vaccines are lost annually due to improper refrigeration in developing countries. – (Source, Visible Thinking – Duke Undergraduate Research Society.”
With current global vaccination programmes, major strides are being taken to prioritise the cold chain. GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, are injecting funding into the market to improve the cold chain. Gavi’s Cold Chain Equipment (CCE) Optimisation Platform commits an initial $250 million to jointly invest with countries to upgrade to high-performing and well-maintained cold chain technologies. The initiative will help countries improve the efficiency and safety of vaccines by increasing their cold chain equipment’s operating time, reducing running costs and improving temperature control.
In addition, new passive cooling technologies will extend the geographic coverage of the cold chain. For the first time, this will enable remote health facilities with no access to the electricity grid to store vaccines appropriately – a crucial step to increasing sustainable immunisation coverage and equity. (You can read all about Sure Chill’s latest Passive Cooling Device here.)
“New vaccine innovations are undoubtedly an exciting step towards protecting the world from future epidemics and existing health threats” reflects Ian, “I hope the announcement marks the first of many steps CEPI will take to get prepared for the next epidemic.”