Could solar-powered fridges keep the world's COVID-19 vaccines cold?

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The next generation of solar-powered refrigerators could be crucial to inoculating the world against COVID-19, as many low income countries do not have reliable access to electricity to keep vaccines cold, NPR reported June 29.

On June 21, the U.S. laid out plans for where it's sending the next 55 million Pfizer vaccine doses it has allocated from its supply for global distribution. Most of the countries receiving these shipments don't have the infrastructure to support the vaccine's storage temperature requirement, which is -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Sierra Leone, for example, has only one freezer that can provide that storage, and it's already being used to store Ebola vaccines.

Countries will likely request different COVID-19 vaccines, such as the ones made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, as they can be stored in standard fridges. Storing those vaccines can be challenging as well, as many countries lack widespread electricity access. Only 28 percent of health facilities in Sub-Saharan African countries have reliable power supplies, according to NPR.

The newest generation of solar-power fridges could help solve this problem and get low income countries' COVID-19 vaccination efforts on a more stable track.

These fridges do not require batteries and are insulated so well that they can stay cold for three days, even if their solar panels aren't supplying power. UNICEF and GAVI, an alliance for global vaccine access, have been doing advocacy work to deliver these fridges to health facilities in Africa.

 

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