September 26, 2017
At Goalkeepers, an event surrounding the release of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s newest report, Global Good showed the world how innovative technology can save lives. Specifically, they tackled the problem of maintaining cold chains, supply chain processes that preserve refrigeration of crucial vaccines and treatments in difficult environments. On stage, engineers demonstrated the MetaFridge and the Indigo Cooler. These technologies have cool names, but they keep vaccines even cooler.
Vaccines typically need to be stored at low temperatures to avoid spoiling. In remote areas, vaccines cannot be used without cooling technology to allow for an uninterrupted cold chain during transport. However, without reliable power, maintaining an effective cold chain has been tricky, and at times, nearly impossible. With the backing of the Gates Foundation, Global Good found a way to make these cold chains reliable.
To increase reliability, the MetaFridge is built with systems that allow it to stay between 35 and 46°F for days, even if the power is out. This ensures that vaccines will not spoil during a power outage. Unreliable power also results in power surges, so the fridge is designed to weather sudden power spikes as well. Finally, the fridge increases reliability with a display containing information about how long vaccines will stay cool without power. This allows medical workers to leave with peace of mind, knowing that if something goes wrong, the vaccines will not spoil overnight.
However, the MetaFridge is just one stationary piece of the cold chain. Vaccines need to be kept cold while they are on the move, too. That is where the Indigo Cooler comes in. It keeps vaccines cool without ice, electricity, or batteries, and it is light enough to wear as a backpack. This engineering feat makes transporting vaccines to remote areas possible — by motorcycle, if necessary. This builds on the work of initiatives like Project Last Mile, which works to bring essential health supplies to remote communities.
Powerful new technologies developed by groups like Global Good are changing the global health landscape, making the delivery of crucial vaccines possible to areas where they’re needed most.