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How Africa can use solar technology to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine.



Even if getting enough vaccines But there are still significant logistical challenges: how to transport temperature-sensitive vaccines to locations without reliable electricity and refrigeration.

The answer lies in the development of a “cold chain”, a network of vehicles, refrigerators and cool rooms that can be used to smoothly transport vaccines from manufacturers to immunization points.

“We know we have to move billions of vaccines worldwide to rural communities and we need a temperature-controlled environment,” he added.

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Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine It must be stored at minus 75 degrees Celsius (minus 103 degrees Fahrenheit), while Moderna can be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit).

These temperature requirements will be out of reach for most African countries, Peters said, but options like the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), will be more. This is possible

Still, the existing cold chain networks are not enough. Without the new technology, up to 25 percent of vaccine devices could be lost, Peters said.

Solar cooler

There are nearly 600 million people in Africa living off the grid, and rural clinics often lose grid connections.

This is where solar power comes in, said Hugh Whalan, CEO of PEG Africa, a company that offers pay-as-you-go solar products to people in West Africa.

To prepare for the Covid-19 vaccination drive, the company, funded by Power Africa, a network of private and public groups founded by USAid, has begun supplying solar power systems to off-grid health clinics.

Providing solar energy to an off-grid clinic allows for cooling like any other medical procedure.

“Refrigerators have to use reliable energy to store vaccines safely or else we waste, so we give them energy,” he told CNN.

Previously, PEG Africa’s refrigeration efforts were focused on building a cold chain for food products, helping produce to market without spoilage. It is currently testing a pay-as-you-go solar freezer among fishermen in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

When the pilot is completed in the middle of this year, Whalan hopes to use the same financial and distribution infrastructure to bring solar-powered refrigerators and freezers to health clinics and immunization points.

Of the two refrigerator suppliers, PEG Africa is working with one that has already received a WHO World Health Organization Performance, Quality and Safety (PQS) certification and the other is in the process of acquisition.

Reach your last mile

Before vaccination can be given to someone, it typically has to go from the manufacturer, to the airport, to the national vaccine store, to the provincial vaccine store, to the local health station, and finally to the Destination position given to patience.

“The last mile is the biggest challenge and the most gaps,” said Peters.

With a highly portable solution, Gricd hopes to distribute the vaccine to remote and disadvantaged communities.

Gricd, a small startup in Nigeria, hopes to help fill this gap. It is building a solar-powered cooler for vaccine transport that can be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) and can be remotely controlled and monitored in real time.

The company said it was working with the Nigeria National Center for Disease Control and the Nigerian Medical Research Institute during the epidemic to help collect and transport COVID-19 test samples from remote areas, the company founder Oghenetega Iortim said. Collaborating with private healthcare companies in South Africa, Ghana and Egypt.

This startup wants to be the Spotify of Africa.

Boxes range from 15 to 100 liters, with the smallest that can carry approximately 200 doses of the vaccine. The 15 liter box is specifically designed for “Last Mile” – The final stage of the journey.

“It can fit into any existing transport medium, whether it’s a boat, the rear of a motorcycle, a bicycle or the back of a person,” Iortim said.

As the batteries run out, solar energy, which maintains a stable internal temperature for up to a week, is ideal for off-grid areas, he added.

There is also a device that monitors location, humidity and temperature and sends this data to distributors in real time.

The Gricd cooler box powered by sunlight can be used in areas off the grid.

“It will warn you if something goes wrong – if the temperature suddenly drops or the power goes out – and you can take proactive measures to make sure the vaccine doesn’t lose its capacity,” Iortim said.

While Gricd products are not yet PQS certified by the WHO, Iortim said the cooler box is on request for certification. He added that the product was certified by the Nigerian Standards Organization.

Immunization at an unprecedented level

This is not the first time Africa has faced a logistical challenge of vaccination. Immunization has been boosted by many children, such as the distribution of vaccines for Ebola and other diseases.

But these have been focused on certain geographic areas or parts of the population, Peters said.

“What we’ve never done before is trying to get vaccinated around the world as quickly as possible,” he said.

He hopes the innovation in the cold chain for Covid-19 will provide broader long-term benefits and apply it to both food and health.

“As we invest hundreds of millions of pounds in new equipment … are we designing a solution today or are we designing a system with a long legacy? He said.


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