South African Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider Beyond has recently entered into a long-term agreement with the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) to supply its remote cold chain monitoring solution in support of Unicef's global vaccination programme.
Unicef will be responsible for distributing Covid-19 vaccines to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries, while also supporting the procurement of vaccines for more than 97 upper-middle- and high-income nations.
Together, these represent more than four-fifths of the world's population.
Unicef is working with vaccine manufacturers, logistics companies and technology partners to procure, distribute and monitor two-billion Covid-19 vaccines by the end of this year.
"Together with Unicef and other nongovernmental organisations, our technology is already deployed in over 70 countries. The objective of this agreement is to accelerate the procurement process. Time is of the essence,” says Beyond CEO Ian Lester.
All vaccines must be stored and transported within a particular temperature range to ensure efficacy. Beyond's remote temperature monitoring devices and global IoT platform allows partners to view the entire cold chain in real-time as they move vaccines from national depots to the most remote villages.
"Securing an equitable vaccine supply is only one part of the problem. Perhaps the bigger and vastly more complex challenge is in the storage and transportation of the vaccines, particularly within the last mile where power, infrastructure and skills are in short supply," notes Lester.
He expresses hope that the silver lining from Covid is that the world’s cold chain capacity will be enhanced, not only to support the Covid-19 vaccine but also for routine vaccinations.
"It is crucial to remember that deadly diseases like measles, polio and mumps have not gone away while Covid-19 is tearing the world apart; we have to keep those programmes going while stopping the spread of Covid-19,” he says.
Beyond and San Francisco-based medical equipment designer and manufacturer 3rd Stone Design are working together to solve the problem of last mile cold chain logistics.
Beyond's remote temperature monitoring and Global Positioning System tracking solution is embedded into 3rd Stone's mobile vaccine refrigerator to ensure safe and effective vaccinations to underserved populations globally.
"Current last-mile vaccine carriers depend on unreliable ice-based cooling, resulting in 19% to 38% spoilage from vaccines getting too hot or too cold en route. With humanity now needing to deliver billions of doses of vaccines to fight Covid-19, such high wastage is self-defeating. It will only prolong the pandemic, as outbreaks recur,” says 3rd Stone CEO Robert Miros.
The company’s thermal-electrically cooled, highly mobile and rugged, battery-powered vaccine refrigerator allows healthcare workers to take vaccines to patients safely while also providing complete visibility of the temperature and location to immunisation programme managers.
It maintains the temperature between 2 °C and 8 °C for up to 12 hours on a single battery charge and can be recharged by either alternating current mains power; direct current power, such as a small solar panel; or even from a vehicle’s cigarette lighter.
"Aside from real-time monitoring the temperature of these vaccine refrigerator units, we're also tracking their locations. In many parts of the world, the limited supply and unlimited demand for vaccines mean that diversions are inevitable. Tracking its location in real-time mitigates that risk,” Lester notes.
Stone Cold has been delivering Covid-19 vaccines in New York City, Atlanta and Georgia, in the US, as well as British Colombia, in Canada. Vaccines will shortly be deployed in Europe and Southern Africa.