What’s tiny, transformative, smart, and now 5 billion strong?

Guest contributor Laura Anderson is an editor at PATH.

Man holding a small bottle between his thumb and forefinger. A sticker on the vial features a purple circle.

Is the vaccine good to use or not? Vaccine vial monitors show health workers at a glance. Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

Imagine you are a health care worker. Should you use or discard the vaccine at right?

For years, health care workers had no way to decide. Then, nearly two decades ago, PATH and our partners developed and introduced the tiny, powerful vaccine vial monitor (VVM).

VVMs change color as they are exposed to heat, letting providers know at a glance whether heat-sensitive vaccines have been damaged or can still be used for immunization.

As of 2014, 5 billion VVMs have been used, saving lives by ensuring vaccines are still potent when they are given.

Five billion is an enormous number. That many VVMs, end to end, would circle the globe. It’s more than two VVMs for every one of the 2 billion children on earth.

Woman in pink smock fills a syringe from a vaccine vial. A young girl looks on.

Thanks to vaccine vial monitors, health care workers, like this one preparing to vaccinate a young girl in Laos against Japanese encephalitis, can quickly see if the vaccine has been exposed to excessive heat. Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

And our impact continues to grow. In the next decade, we estimate that VVMs will allow health care workers to recognize and replace more than 200 million damaged doses and deliver at least a billion more doses in remote settings.

Thanks to the vision and tenacity of PATH and our partners, we did what no other group could: unlock a simple, transformative innovation and drive it to lifesaving scale.

Exemplifying our role in leading global health innovation, PATH was selected as one of 30 leading American innovators for the US Global Leadership Coalitions’s (USGLC) 2014 Innovations in Smart Power Initiative, in which the VVM was selected as a top life-saving innovation.

Infographic showing VVM sticker changing color from heat exposure, with text, 'Vaccine vial monitors: saving lives, one dose at a time. As of 2014, 5 billion VVMs have been used, saving lives worldwide by ensuring vaccines are still potent when they're given.'

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Posted in About PATH, Featured posts, Health technologies, Vaccines and immunization | Permalink

2 Responses to What’s tiny, transformative, smart, and now 5 billion strong?

  1. It’s no surprise that VVM was selected as a top life-saving innovation. It’s the use of VVM on cholera vaccine vials that allowed wider reach in the sub-Saharan Africa.
    Prasad
    India

  2. VVM’s no doubt help to save lives, but what about the stated 200 million damaged doses that the labelling has identified?
    A large number of these will have been rendered ineffective due to failings in cold chain distribution and in particular, insulated packaging.
    There is a natural, sustainable, renewable and recyclable insulated packaging alternative – wool.

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