Storing vaccines typically requires a ‟cold chain” system – an uninterrupted refrigerated supply chain where they’re stored at temperatures between 2C and 8C at all times. Any screw-ups or delays along the way will break the cold chain, rendering the medicine useless and vulnerable people unprotected, especially in rural, remote, and conflict-affected areas.
Fortunately, scientists from Canada may have come up with a simple way to store vaccines at higher temperatures for weeks at a time, potentially solving a major problem in the fight against preventable diseases around the world. The cheap technology involves the use of a sugary substance that allows for easier, longer shipments of the medicine. The scientists combined herpes and influenza vaccines – chosen because they’re among the most fragile and sensitive to heat – with a sugary solution and dried the mixture into a thin film. They stored this at a desert-like 40 degrees Celsius for weeks before reconstituting it in saline solution and testing it in mice.
The vaccines turned out to be as safe and as effective as they would have been fresh out of the fridge. The flu vaccine was still good after three months, and herpes after two. The research team is now looking at partnerships and more funding to further develop the technology, which could one day save lives and money.