"Maintaining potency of the vaccine as per the Indian requirements is important to prevent its wastage. If a person is vaccinated and the temperature has breached its intolerance limit or lost its potency, the efficiency rate is hampered."
The cold-chain infrastructure has become unexpectedly relevant and critical in the age of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the rising cases of COVID in this second wave, it is even more imperative to ensure no vaccine is wasted due to lack of refrigeration or poor infrastructure. No country can afford to face any wastage or inefficiency in the vaccination drive due to logistical issues or power outages related to their cold-chain infrastructure. Gurugram-based Elanpro, which is one of the leading names in commercial refrigeration has recently launched their two variants of portable COVID Vaccine Freezer with temperature-based monitoring system. These portable COVID Vaccine Freezers- an IOT-Enabled Portable COVID Vaccine Freezer with temperature range from 2 Deg C to -20 Deg C and a Portable COVID Vaccine Freezer maintaining temperature only at – 86 Deg C, are equipped with advanced features to maintain the efficiency and efficacy of the vaccine. The company claims that both the products are designed as a solution enabling the government bodies to reach out to the farthest corner of the country without waiting for the infrastructure to be developed. In an exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online Sanjay Jain, Director at Elanpro talked about ways to ensure continuity of vaccine supply, cold-chain infrastructure and more. Excerpts:
How Indian pharma industry ensure the continuity of supplies and make efforts to ensure that vaccines reach people during the pandemic?
The Indian pharmaceutical industry in coordination with the Government of India made sure that medicines and vaccines reach the individuals during the pandemic and ensure the continuity of supplies. The pharma industry works with a regulator to ensure that medicines reach the market fast, without compromising safety standards and have ensured a stable supply chain through the pandemic. The continued research, manufacturing, quality operations, and go-to-market strategies helped them grow from strength to strength. They took proactive actions during the pandemic and ensured that manufacturing continued unhindered despite all sorts of challenges and hence, manufacturing did not stop for one day.
The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of cold-chain infrastructure.
Yes. As India begins the second phase of its Covid-19 vaccine deployment, the efficacy of its supply chain network and cold-chain infrastructure is more important than ever. The pharma companies and governments have joined forces to roll out the vaccines. But there are few challenges that need to be addressed soon. Some of the pharma distributors or retailers in the metro and mini metro cities use domestic refrigerators which are designed to have different temperature pockets, where the temperature is not uniform and a big freezer space is not utilized. Whereas, vaccines or temperature sensitive medicines require 4 Deg C consistently.
Also, in India, there are places so remote that even basic mode of transportation is not available. However, it is critical that vaccines are available in every part of the country. Many rural areas continue to experience erratic power fluctuations, making it difficult for refrigerators to function in such areas. We conducted extensive research and study on geographical aspects and felt compelled to contribute to the betterment of individuals.
Elaborate how retaining vaccine potency and preventing wastage due to breaches caused by power outages or maintenance of cold chains during secondary movement is an imperative role that the portable vaccine freezers play.
Vaccines are extremely sensitive products that are supposed to be stored at certain temperature as per their requirements. As per the WHO mandate, the temperature for a vaccine cannot be below 2 degrees or above 8 degrees, but when it comes to -20 or -70 degrees, it becomes challenging. Secondary transportation remains a major challenge, similarly power outage can happen in any part of India. Maintaining potency of the vaccine as per the Indian requirements is important to prevent its wastage. If a person is vaccinated and the temperature has breached its intolerance limit or lost its potency, the efficiency rate is hampered. Therefore, maintaining a cold-chain system is a basic requirement and that is where portable vaccine freezers come into play. They can maintain the right temperature as they have batteries and may be equipped with a data logging system where you can track database.
What is your take on how the vaccination drive has made everyone realise the importance of a strong healthcare infrastructure?
Healthcare infrastructure is important and mandatory. Government has successfully been able to create a lot of infrastructure which did not exist earlier. However, now people understand the importance of physical medical infrastructure more than ever. The vaccination drive has made everyone aware of the importance of a strong infrastructure for health care. The Union budget announced on 1st February 2021, had a much-needed, very significant increase in the cost of healthcare, given the expected healthcare needs and to fight the pandemic. In addition to the overall strengthening of medical infrastructure, we can expect a big boost for the country’s vaccine cold chain.
How ice-lined refrigerators ensure low rise in temperature?
Ice Lined refrigerator as the name suggests have special chemical bank which ensures that the temperature during power failure can be maintained between 2 to 8deg C for as long as 48 to 100hrs depending upon the ambient condition. These equipment also come with advanced controls including Low and High alarm as well as data logging mechanism to monitor any temperature breach.
Is there any advancement to the refrigeration of other vaccines apart from Covid-19, since the demands for biopharmaceuticals are increasing?
When it comes to biotechnology refrigerators, there is a lot of work that is required. Accurate temperature management is the most important aspect and challenge to address. Therefore, we have consistently worked on innovation, given that India has its own unique challenges. Awareness is the other facet we worked on. There is still a lack of knowledge and awareness with respect to the use of vaccines. I regard this as one of the key aspects to educate the medical fraternity. The domestic refrigerators aren’t equipped for medical storage purposes as each injection, vaccine needs a particular storage temperature. Other than vaccines there are many medications which require accurate temperature management, this includes Insulin, cancer, AIDS and IVF drugs. All of these should not be stored in the domestic refrigerator, as they have no temperature consistency and the temperature can vary between +0 °C and +16 °C. in different compartments with no monitoring and controls. I also see a lot of potential for transport freezers being used even for a regular vaccine delivery as well as vaccination drives.
How is Elanpro helping the pharmaceutical industry to fight against the pandemic?
We, at Elanpro, are working on a baseline by improving the infrastructure in upgrading people’s skill. We are giving them the right equipment, we are trying to give them quality products and best of service in terms or post sales, we are trying to make available a good quality product and we have also gone overdrive in creating awareness. There is a growing need for temperature cooling solutions for several critical medical applications that stretch beyond the Covid-19 vaccines. On the other hand, the medical professionals are not expected to understand the aspects of temperature, they aren’t aware that a domestic refrigerator is not good for lab use or pharmacies because they don’t maintain temperature. We are trying to create awareness by giving them equipment which has the right temperature and comes with multiple control and alarms, and also we are giving them a very cost effective temperature monitoring system which was initially not available. You can monitor the data on cloud all the time at a base-level cost.