Formulating vaccinations that do not need to be kept refrigerated is one of the biggest problems in global health.
But now, thanks to scientists at Oxford University and Nov Bio-Pharma Technologies, a solution could finally be on the horizon.
Currently, the sensitive formulation of many vaccines mean that in order for them to remain effective, they need to be carefully stored under controlled conditions, usually in medical refrigeration units. Not only is this costly, requiring close monitoring throughout each stage of the supply chain, but it makes shipping vaccines to remote locations in tropical temperatures very difficult.
Revolutionising vaccination programmes
The work funded by the Grand Challenges in Global Health partnership and the Wellcome Trust could transform the vaccination system worldwide by removing the need for professional refrigeration systems.
It is particularly promising news for developing countries which could greatly benefit from access to vaccines that could be shipped cheaply and easily at normal temperatures. Potentially, millions of lives currently lost to infectious diseases every year could be saved.
How the new vaccine works
In the study undertaken by scientists, they have demonstrated that it is possible to store two different virus-based vaccines at 45 degrees for up to six months without any degradation, due to the use of a sugar-stabilised membrane. Only a tiny amount of degradation was reported in vaccines stored on the same sugar-stabilised membrane and kept at 37 degrees for over a year.
The key to the stabilisation process has been the development of a specific blend made from the sugars, trehalose and sucrose. The sugars are mixed with the vaccine and left to dry out on a simple membrane. As water in the vaccine evaporates, the mixture turns into a syrup before solidifying on the membrane.
This has the effect of preserving the active part of the vaccine, protecting it from damage when exposed to warm temperatures. Rehydrating the vaccine with water is all that is needed to prepare it ready for use. The approach could completely overhaul global vaccination efforts.
Further developmental work is required before vaccinations can be stored unrefrigerated and remain effective. Until then, medical refrigeration such as the units shown here – https://www.fridgefreezerdirect.co.uk/medical-refrigeration is still essential.
However, undoubtedly the creation of heat-stable vaccines is a positive development we should all look forward to in the future.