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Cold Chain Plays Key Role in Successful Vaccine Delivery

The successful distribution of a vaccine during a disease outbreak or epidemic depends upon each phase of the cold chain distribution system through which it moves working in harmony. From the laboratory to the point of administration to the public, the proper delivery of temperature-sensitive vaccines requires discipline throughout the entire distribution chain.

Maintaining the correct temperature throughout cold chain distribution is vital to the successful administration of vaccines and ensuring public health. The recommended temperature range for the storage of vaccines is 2-8 degrees Celsius. Failure to properly store vaccines and keep them from fluctuating out of this safe temperature range can cause the vaccine to lose its effectiveness. Temperature excursions could not only prove wasteful and result in costly product losses, but could also result in improper administration of the vaccines and pose health risks to the public.

Therefore, it is vital to have the most efficient refrigerated shipping containers, mobile refrigerated units, and overall best cold chain solutions available for the purpose of efficiently transporting vaccines to their destinations. This need for competent temperature-controlled shipping services has resulted in the modernization of the cold chain industry, and companies that specialize in cold storage greatly contribute to humanity by playing such a critical role in the delivery of life-saving medicines.

The technology behind temperature controlled packaging continues to be refined and has advanced to the point where concerns about spoilage during the delivery of critical vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and medicines have been greatly diminished. The insulation and packaging technologies within temperature controlled containers has evolved to the point that hold times have been greatly extended. Additionally, advanced temperature monitoring and reporting features that convey vital statistics and can be downloaded to a designated personal computer or a hand-held device, help to validate hold time performance throughout the shipping process

In the mid-1970’s, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) was established to standardize immunization procedures and build a reliable world-wide immunization infrastructure. At the time, there were no real means for healthcare workers on the receiving end of vaccine shipments to tell if a shipment had been compromised-thus losing its potency-due to exposure to heat.

Along with the implementation of the EPI came the high standards that those in the cold chain shipping industry were required to meet. Achieving these standards was costly at first as new refrigeration techniques and equipment had to be developed. Although there was some initial scrambling by providers to come up to speed on cold chain shipping options, in the long run the EPI strategy proved to be effective. It brought about the modernization of insulated containers and the cold chain shipping industry on the whole, compelling those in the industry to develop more stable and efficient equipment. This resulted in safer and much more reliable vaccine shipments, and for the most part, the goal of the EPI had been achieved.

Standards and controls have been established by entities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF for the entire vaccination cycle. This has fostered a safer and better-organized system. From research and development to delivery, all parties involved-including those in the cold chain shipping industry-have risen to meet vaccine distribution challenges, and have exceeded established standards.