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The final stages of a vaccine’s journey from concept to delivery can be the most difficult. Challenges include transporting and storing vaccine, keeping it at appropriate temperatures, and getting it safely to the children who will benefit from its protection.

When we work on vaccines at PATH, we think about how to ensure they will be effective and accessible in low-resource settings. In places where electricity is sporadic or nonexistent, the solutions might be found in solar-powered refrigeration or in formulations of vaccines that can safely withstand heat exposure. When vaccines are in short supply, the answer might be vaccines injected directly under the skin rather than into the muscle, which may require far lower dose quantities.

We identify, invent, adapt, and test technologies—often in our laboratory and product development shop—correcting course and redesigning when necessary to ensure these innovations make sense for the world’s poorest communities. At each stage of development, we carefully consider a technology’s feasibility and its acceptability and affordability for the people who will use it.

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A small vaccine carrier like this one protects vaccines during transport. The inner box is made of phase-change material that can keep vaccines chilled for up to 40 hours in hot weather yet protects them from freezing.

Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

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Many health centers in the developing world lack reliable electricity for vaccine storage. Batteries can be too expensive and unreliable. With our partners we have developed low-cost solar refrigerators that store vaccines at temperatures necessary to preserve their effectiveness.

Photo: PATH/Carib Nelson.

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A simple purple sticker changes color to signal when a vaccine is exposed to too much heat and potential damage. Working with a private partner, PATH developed the vaccine vial monitor, introduced in 1996. Today, more than 3.2 billion of the stickers have been used in immunization programs throughout the world.

Photo: Wendy Stone.

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We are working on ideas to improve vaccines’ ability to stand up to both heat and cold, through formulation as well as processing improvements.

Photo: PATH/Scott Areman.

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The PATH-developed BD Uniject™ injection system is ideal for health workers in low-resource settings because it does not require assembly, preparation, or extensive training. It is prefilled by the vaccine producer with a single dose of vaccine. The syringe automatically is disabled after use, forestalling needle reuse or possible transmission of disease.

Photo: PATH/Glenn Austin.

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Shots without needles? We’re evaluating the next  generation of jet injectors: a technology that uses needle-free disposable syringes filled with a single dose of vaccine. A  high-pressure liquid stream penetrates the skin to different depths of injection.

Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

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PATH’s intradermal adaptor fits over a regular syringe to make it easier for health workers to inject vaccines into the top layer of skin. The adaptor standardizes injection depth and angle and could allow more health workers to give intradermal injections more reliably.

Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

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A fast-dissolving tablet that disintegrates instantly either under the tongue or when dissolved in buffer is being explored as a new format for delivering oral vaccines. We’re experimenting with combining this technology with new vaccines against diarrheal diseases.

Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

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Another method for protection against mucosal pathogens may be delivery of oral vaccines in a thermoresponsive gel formulation. The vaccine begins as a liquid at room temperature. It is delivered by a dropper under the tongue. There, it instantly transforms to a gel at human body temperature, helping it to cling to mucosal surfaces and reach target cells.

Photo: PATH/Scott Areman.