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Cold chain technology brief: vaccines

The International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR) has released this note that provides an overview of the vaccine cold chain in general and COVID-19 in particular, its requirements and challenges. First, the effects of temperature on these vaccines, old and new, and their storage and transport requirements should be known. Second, the temperature-controlled logistics of vaccines in general and COVID-19 vaccines in particular, and the equipment and solutions used for their cold chain, must be analysed. Finally, if refrigeration is essential for our health as well as for our food, it must be sustainable, and it is therefore necessary to analyse the challenges to be met so that the cold chain for vaccines disrupted by COVID-19, is sustainable in the short, medium, and long term.

Refrigeration being essential globally, for our health as well as for our food supply, it must be sustainable. Image credit: IIR

Refrigeration being essential globally, for our health as well as for our food supply, it must be sustainable. Image credit: IIR

Since the start of the Covid-19 vaccination campaigns at the end of 2020, the world has become aware of the importance of refrigeration and of the cold chain, which is essential for the organisation of a global vaccination campaign against the SARS-COV-II virus.

The use of very low storage temperatures for the first vaccines has raised the public’s awareness about the importance of the cold chain for vaccine preservation and mobilised all those involved in temperature-controlled logistics. Vaccines, which appeared more than two centuries ago in the United Kingdom have been stored under controlled temperatures for a very long time. In 1920, Professor d’Arsonval proposed using vacuum freeze-drying at -80°C to replace the iceboxes and antiseptics commonly used for transporting and preserving vaccine pulps.

A vaccine cold chain has been developed for many years, particularly under the aegis of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Prior to Covid-19, more than 4.7 billion doses of vaccine were injected worldwide each year, representing a market of more than USD40-billion (2019), which is expected to reach USD80-billion by 2025. The Covid-19 vaccination campaign has revolutionised the vaccine cold chain, with volumes almost twice as high as usual, but also because of the new storage and transport temperature ranges that require new equipment, new solutions and new organisations.

To date, more than 7 billion Covid-19 vaccines have already been pre-ordered worldwide, with storage temperatures ranging from -90°C to +8°C. This note provides an overview of the vaccine cold chain in general and Covid-19 in particular, its requirements and challenges.

First, the effects of temperature on these vaccines, old and new, and their storage and transport requirements should be known. Second, the temperature-controlled logistics of vaccines in general and Covid-19 vaccines in particular, and the equipment and solutions used for their cold chain, must be analysed. Finally, if refrigeration is essential for our health as well as for our food, it must be sustainable, and it is therefore necessary to analyse the challenges to be met so that the cold chain for vaccines disrupted by Covid-19, is sustainable in the short, medium, and long term.

This is a short extract of the note. To download the full document at no charge, click here.