In recent centuries, medicine has moved to the forefront of human innovation. Impressive and lifesaving discoveries have been made across the field’s wide spectrum, though the invention of vaccines — particularly those in the 20th century — is standalone in the impact they have had on humanity’s health and continuation.
Unfortunately, many vaccines — including those most needed by children — have temperature limitations: any exposure to temperatures outside of their ideal range (around 40 degrees Fahrenheit for refrigerated and 5 degrees and colder for frozen) can result in a breakdown of the vaccine and reduced efficacy. The only way to get these vital vaccines to the people who need them throughout the world is to develop a cold chain.
The cold chain refers to the system of storing and transporting vaccines within their required temperature ranges. Since extreme heat and cold can lead to ineffective inoculations, this temperature control system must not be broken.
A ‘break’ in the cold chain occurs whenever the vaccines are exposed to temperatures outside of this range, and the consequences affect everyone involved: patients may remain susceptible to the disease; laboratories and transportation companies will have wasted precious time, money, and resources; and extra costs will be incurred to replace the damaged vaccines.
Due to these high risks (and constant travel to countries like Africa that experience nonstop heat), extra measures are taken to ensure that the vaccines are protected. Vaccine vial monitors (VVMs) are designed to alert health care workers to any significant change in temperature to prevent loss. With constant vigilance, we can get these necessary vaccines to everyone who needs them.