Vaccinating Children Beyond the ‘Cold Chain’: Extending the Heat Stability of Vaccines

An issue brief from Médecins sans Frontières
April 16, 2014
Shipping and storing vaccines in a ‘cold chain’ in the tropical heat of many resource-limited countries – whereby the vaccine is kept at temperatures between 2°C to 8°C from the point of manufacture until reaching the recipient – is a tremendous challenge and a major cause of poor immunisation coverage rates. Ministries of Health and organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which carry out vaccination in developing countries, struggle with the immense task of keeping vaccines within the recommended temperatures in contexts where infrastructure is weak and electricity supply and refrigeration unstable.
Growing evidence shows that some vaccines can be safely kept outside the cold chain for certain periods of time. This more flexible use of the cold chain is called the ‘controlled temperature chain’ (CTC) or a ‘flexible cold chain.’ This approach has considerable potential benefits, including cost savings, preventing vaccine damage caused by accidental freezing, and, most importantly, making it easier to reach children living in remote places who would otherwise remain unvaccinated. However, very few vaccine manufacturers have released information on, or further studied, the stability of their vaccines outside the typical recommendation of keeping vaccines at between 2 to 8°C.
Read more of this issue on the MSF Access Campaign website
(La version Française de ce point info est accessible ici.)