A pharmaceutical researcher, Dr. Dan Orunmwense, says scientific efforts to produce vaccines not requiring cold-chain for storage and distribution would help the eradication of many diseases.
According to the pharmaceutical scientist, having vaccines that cannot be damaged by excessive cold or heat would help enhance efforts to eradicate many vaccine-preventable diseases in Africa and around the world.
Dr. Orunmwense, who is also a clinical pharmacist, was reacting to a report that pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, and other firms are researching the production of vaccines that would not require cold-chain for storage and transportation.
The research report, published in Chemistry World, a monthly chemistry news magazine published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, highlighted the challenges of storing vaccines at their appropriate temperature and the need for scientists to find ways to protect vaccines from heat degradation.
The research revealed that keeping vaccines at the right temperature to ensure they are effective has continued to be a very expensive business, noting that the cold chain accounts for 80 per cent of the cost of vaccine delivery.
“The agencies responsible for taking vaccines to the developing world spend more than $400m [£290m] a year just on refrigerators – just keeping the cold chain intact. That in itself would buy a lot of vaccines,” says Bruce Roser, one of the researcher and co-founder of Stablepharma, United Kingdom.
Speaking in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, Orunmwense said while the findings of the study may not be useful to ongoing efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with vaccines, the findings could be quite invaluable in future for other vaccines.
“It is a welcome development, particularly in Africa. It would help us to deal with the challenges of vaccine transportation, especially with our infrastructural challenges.
“Aside from the need for cold chain, transportation is also a big problem as our roads are bad and moving vaccine around on the bad road is also a problem.
“I am also not surprised that scientists are looking into this. Science is a continuous exercise as it helps us to deal with our challenges.
“I also believe it is doable. What the scientists are working on is having a molecule that will be conjugated and stable. It can be achieved,” he said.
Dr. Orunmwense, however, urged Nigeria to look more in the direction of local vaccine production, noting that, the nation need not reinvent the wheel to produce vaccine as information and technology required for the exercise was available.
“We know the technology needed to produce vaccines and all we need is just the political will.
“If we can store vaccines as we have demonstrated over the years then nothing stops us from producing it.
“All we need is guiding against dishonesty in the system and ensure we avoid sabotage of our system and processes,” Orunmwense said.
According to the World Health Organisation, the purpose of the vaccine “cold chain” is to maintain product quality from the time of manufacture until the point of administration by ensuring that vaccines are stored and transported within recommended temperature ranges.
Recall that the National Primary Health Care Development Agency recently disclosed that Nigeria has invested heavily in cold chain equipment in preparation for COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria.
According to the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Nigeria has the adequate storage capacity to preserve the first 100,000 doses expected from Pfizer.
The NPHCDA chief had disclosed that the ultracold chain equipment available in the country has over 2,100 litres capacity, while the requirement for the 100,000 Pfizer vaccine coming by the end of January or early February is 500 litres.
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