Keeping vaccines cold when you’re delivering them to the most remote places on earth is a tough challenge. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has come with quite a creative and innovative solution for that challenge, I must say. Hang on with me for the Indigo Cooler.
Keeping vaccines cold
It all started with Papa Blandine Mwey, who worked as a vaccinator in Congo for more than a decade. The story goes that she travelled by foot to villages all over the region so she could vaccinate kids who lived too far from a health clinic to make the trip themselves as it is nearly 5,100 miles away.
The big challenge for her and the health clinics in this situation is to keep these vaccines in the right temperature range through each step of the “cold chain”. Unfortunately, many health clinics where vaccinators like Blandine pick up the vaccines are located in areas with frequent power outages or no electrical grid at all. But even if the vaccines survive the clinic, they still need to make it to the children. This is also a challenge since ice-lined coolers start tot melt soon.
No ice, no batteries and no power
So a couple of years ago, Bill Gates and his foundation requested some inventors of Global Good to change the game for vaccinators like Blandine. In 2015 the inventors came up with two game changers: de MetaFridge and the Indigo cooler. Both keep vaccines at the right temperature for at least five days with no ice, no batteries, and no power required during cooling. Isn’t that amazing? Here’s Bill Gates explaining:
What causes the magic
It may sound counter intuitive, but the vaccins cooler needs heat before you can use it. When exposed to a heat source, water inside its walls evaporates and moves into a separate compartment. It can then sit on a shelf for months after heating, ready for use. All of this is caused by two important inventions.
The first is the MetaFridge. Although it looks like a regular refrigerator, MetaFridge has a hidden super power: it keeps vaccines cold without power for at least five days. The electrical components are designed to keep working through power surges and brown-outs. During extended outages, an easy-to-read screen tells you how much longer it can stay cool without power, so that health workers know when to run a generator or to move vaccines elsewhere. And if the fridge stops working properly, it transmits data remotely to a service team so they can fix it before vaccines are at risk of spoiling.
The other innovation Global Good invented is the Indigo cooler, which is the device you see Blandine using in the above video. It keeps vaccines at the right temperature for at least five days with no ice, no batteries, and no power required during cooling.
The Indigo cooler is in the field trial phase. It’s still early, but the data suggest that the Indigo is allowing vaccinators to reach four times as many places as they could with the old ice-based coolers. That’s a big deal, and I’m excited to learn more.
For sure I’m always picky about what kind of philanthropic activities my money goes to, but this idea of the Indigo cooler really convinced me to do good. If you like to do that yourself as well, go to their user-friendly website. You can also think about it first, ofcourse. The minimum donation amount is 10 dollars, so it’s for every budget.
I hope MetaFridge and the Indigo cooler inspire other inventors to find creative solutions like these. Let me know if you already heard of this and what you think of this invention in the comment section below.