State-of-the-art portable freezers ensure safe vaccine delivery in remote areas
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Right-to-Care Equip project for the Ministry of Health and Social Services, recently funded four state-of-the-art portable ultra-low-temperature medical freezer units to ensure that vaccines reach remote clinics properly preserved.
This week, the US Embassy in Windhoek helped deliver vaccines to the Onandjokwe Intermediate Hospital near Ondangwa. Linea Absalom (55) was one of the recipients, as she received her first COVID-19 vaccination at Onandjokwe. “I just like to feel safe, and the vaccination means that I can be safe,” Absalom said.
The vaccine that she received came a long way as the hospital is located about 800 kilometers north Windhoek. According to the embassy spokesperson, Tiffany Miller, for health facilities such as this, the number of daily vaccinations fluctuates significantly. She added that sometimes the hospital requests as few as ten vials per order.
Miller added the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNtech must be continually kept at temperatures between minus 60 and minus 80 degrees Celsius—a challenge in a hot and vast country like Namibia, where the vaccines need to reach clinics that are located in remote areas far removed from the medical cold chain.
“The solution came with the introduction of small portable ultra-low-temperature freezers that look like high-tech camping cooler boxes,” said Miller adding that each freezer costs around N$250,000.
They are battery-powered and can maintain the required ultra-low temperature over many hours which makes them the ideal means of transport for the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine. Further, due to the efficient ultra-cold supply chain with the help of USAID’s mobile freezers, COVID-19 vaccines can reach any Namibian health facility in a day.
In addition, partnering with Namibia’s postal service, NamPost, the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program is responsible for the logistics to ensure the cold chain is not broken until the vaccine reaches its destination, even in the most remote corners of Namibia.
“As soon as a health facility orders a batch of vaccine vials, NamPost staff will turn on one of the mobile freezers to reach ultra-cold temperature within three to four hours,” said Miller.
Furthermore, the freezer is placed on the passenger seat so the driver can monitor the temperature throughout the transport.
NamPost driver Stanley /Uirab explained that drivers on this particular stretch need to be very quick. “I have to get the freezer from the storage room to the car within seconds and immediately connect it to the battery,” he said, adding that only when the vaccine has safely arrived and is ready to be administered can I confidently say “mission accomplished”.
“Thanks to the small mobile ultra-low-temperature freezers that go the last extra mile to ensure safe vaccine delivery, Absolom will get her second COVID shot in a few weeks,” Miller said.