Seattle, February 7, 2018—This week, the first commercially available freeze-free vaccine carrier will begin introductory field trials in Nepal. This follows the World Health Organization (WHO) announcement that the Indian-made carrier using PATH’s “Freeze-Safe” reference design passed WHO Performance, Quality, and Safety (PQS) laboratory tests for User Independent Freeze Prevention, which prequalifies it for use in global immunization programs. This is the first low-cost carrier innovation available to address the widespread and long-standing problem of vaccines freezing in the cold chain during the “last mile” of outreach to infants and children.
Currently in low- and middle-income countries, health workers carry millions of temperature-sensitive vaccines next to ice packs inside vaccine carriers to reduce heat exposure, but this risks freezing the vaccines if ice packs are not conditioned (carefully warmed to around 0°C). Freezing can irreversibly compromise vaccine potency, resulting in inadequate protection from disease for people receiving vaccines. When health workers suspect temperature damage, the vaccine or medication is often discarded—at great cost to health care programs.