Johannesburg based Beyond Wireless has developed a simple, user-friendly solution to the global challenge of monitoring the vaccine cold chain.
Called ColdCloud, its creators believe it could help to prevent millions of deaths in the developing world. It is currently in use in 54 countries across five continents. Locally, Beyond Wireless aims to align South Africa’s pharmaceutical industry with international best practice.
According to the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), rolling out childhood immunisations against Hib, pneumococcal and rotavirus diseases in the world’s 73 poorest countries over the next decade will result in an estimated $63 billion in treatment and productivity savings and avert 3.7 million deaths. The challenge, however, is that these countries are often ill equipped to transport, store and distribute vaccines.
Governments around the world are focusing on legislation that aligns their pharmaceutical industries with international best practice, which includes requiring constant temperature monitoring at every leg of the cold chain.
Beyond Wireless founder and CEO, Ian Lester, explains that this is because vaccines must be stored between 2 and 8˚ C. “Temperature excursions outside of this band can reduce and even destroy the effectiveness of vaccines,” he says. “Imagine – you think you’ve immunised your child against pneumococcal disease, but because the vaccine has got too hot or too cold, it’s actually ineffective. It’s a scary thought, but a reality in many poor regions. Even if people have access to vaccines, which is a challenge in itself, are those vaccines effective in combating disease?”
Lester, along with his clients like the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross, believes that improving immunisation is thus a catalyst to solving broader issues, from healthcare through to poverty.
“Ideally, consumers and patients should be able to request proof of compliance from clinics, doctors’ rooms, pharmacies and other medical suppliers to show that vaccines have remained within the required temperature band,” says Lester. “This would significantly boost the efficacy of immunisation efforts.”
Fixing vaccine cold chain
Global best practice suggests automatic temperature monitoring of vaccine and other temperature-sensitive drugs as the best option for maintaining the cold chain, yet many countries in the developing world still lag behind in this regard, which is where Beyond Wireless believes ColdCloud can assist.
“Across the entire length of the cold chain, but especially at the last mile, it’s extremely difficult to ensure that the vaccine cold chain is properly maintained,” Lester says. “If for instance your power goes off in the middle of the night or if a door is accidentally left open, you’re not going to know whether the vaccine in the fridge has gone outside of its temperature range or not. Our GSM enabled remote temperature monitoring device, the ice, is battery operated (with a battery that lasts for five years without the need to recharge to replace it), so it doesn’t require any external power source and is therefore completely immune to damage from power surge. This is a major advantage in the developing world where power can be both unreliable and dirty. The ice device sits in the fridge and monitors power supply, door position and temperature, and escalates alarms via email, sms and via a smart-phone app when anything goes wrong.”
The Beyond Wireless real time temperature monitoring solution is also accessible from any standard browser or smart device with an internet connection. “If you’re working for a health NGO that has vaccine fridges in far-flung locations around the world, you can pull out your phone or tablet wherever you are, log in, and check on the status of every fridge being monitored, as well as pulling up historical data, which allows you to see trends and make informed decisions. I truly believe that by improving the monitoring and control of vaccine cold chains in vaccine distribution points around the world, we can save millions of lives, as well as improving the health and economies of entire societies.”
The ColdCloud solution offers two devices, ice and ice EXTRA, both are WHO PQS and ISO 9001:2008 certified. Beyond Wireless has recently begun to partner with OEMs to supply fridges with the ice and ice EXTRA already installed, thus simplifying access to effective remote cold chain monitoring even further.