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Finally, a lasting solution; Koolboks introduces the first locally made vaccine refrigerator, adapted for use in Africa

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Vaccine storage in the health sector has been a major challenge in Nigeria because of the epileptic nature of power supply in the country. As a pharmacist myself, I understand the urgent need for a sustainable solution, and through our partnership with BASE, we’ve found a way through which a truly innovative product that caters to this can be made accessible to those that need it the most”

– Ayoola Dominic, President and Co-Founder, Koolboks

 Meet Isioma, a young mother of two living in Oshimili North LGA of Delta state Nigeria, who lost her first child to the measles virus. Due to the epileptic power supply in the country and a lack of adequate cold chain facilities, there were no vaccines available to them and thus, no means of protecting her child from the deadly disease. Today, Isioma is pregnant with another child and though happy at the news, her joy is overshadowed by the fear that her unborn child might suffer the same fate. 

This experience is not unique only to Isioma but is common to the millions of people and hundreds of healthcare facilities in these regions that cannot access essential vaccines and thermolabile medications because they have no means to refrigerate them. According to Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), over 1 billion people globally still do not have access to cooling, an essential component for vaccine storage and distribution. The 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) cold chain inventory assessment revealed that about 60% of wards in Nigeria are not equipped with active cold chain equipment and that 58% of immunization sites are without electricity.

To provide a lasting solution to this problem, Koolboks has finalized a prototype and would be launching the first locally made vaccine refrigerator adapted specifically for Africa. Ideal for use in on and off-grid areas, the Koolboks vaccine fridge is designed to preserve vaccine potency in the recommended 2-8•C ideal temperature window and is built with an ice thermal storage that provides constant refrigeration at this temperature for up to 88 hours without power supply or sunlight.

Koolboks Vaccine Fridge

Catering to the three basic needs of Nigerians; light, energy and refrigeration, the Koolboks vaccine fridges also come equipped with external LED bulbs to aid sight at night in case of snake bites and other emergencies and 2 USB ports to charge mobile phones. It is designed with an advanced temperature monitoring system that enables the user to remotely access, monitor and control the vaccine fridge from anywhere in the world, even in rural areas with no GSM network coverage.

This is made possible with the use of GSM/GPRS/3G/4G network communication and SMS commands, with an alarm system in place that notifies the user when the freezer exceeds or goes below the ideal temperature. This is especially crucial for our target environment as Sub-Saharan Africa is known to have the widest coverage gap in the world according to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA).

Advanced vaccine temperature monitoring system

However, due to the high upfront cost required to purchase these vaccine fridges, many healthcare facilities in rural regions may not be able to afford it. Koolboks has therefore introduced the Cooling-as-a-Service (CaaS) model in partnership with the Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy (BASE), to increase the accessibility of the product to pharmacies and hospitals that need it the most. With this model, customers can pay a small monthly fee to access the cooling service and receive regular routine maintenance of the solar power systems and vaccine fridges.

Currently, Koolboks would be launching a pilot program in Delta state to provide 30 vaccine solar fridges to healthcare facilities in rural areas in the state and is already in talks with LaGazelle, France to set up a local assembly plant in Nigeria. This will help promote sustainability, bring the solution closer to those who need it the most and ensure faster, real-time maintenance of the vaccine fridges.

The need for vaccine solar refrigerators in Africa cannot be over-emphasized, especially in the world today, as we assess the effects of the Ebola outbreak in 2014 that claimed over 11,000 lives, and the coronavirus pandemic we’re fighting today. These outbreaks took the world by surprise and to be better prepared, we must ensure that as essential vaccines are manufactured, we have a sustainable means of distributing it to those in need. 

With the Koolboks vaccine refrigerator, we can help mitigate the risk of complications that may arise from the loss of vaccine potency at primary healthcare centers, reduce the upfront costs required to install and maintain these vaccine fridges, and give people like Isioma and her children a fighting chance.

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