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Vaccine Safety - The Missing Link

Every year billions of pounds are poured into vaccine research and development. International schemes are organised and run by huge organisations to increase the distribution of vaccines and gather data from those that receive immunisation, but the essential link between laboratory and patient appears to be forgotten. Companies may have developed a ground breaking vaccine, and organisations may have managed to inject thousands of children in under developed countries, but all this is worthless if the vaccine has not been kept in the correct environment.

Vaccines must be kept at the correct temperature to remain effective. Just two degrees too hot or cold can have a disastrous impact on effectiveness. Vietnam is currently [1] in the middle of a measles outbreak with 3500 confirmed cases since the beginning of 2014. In every 100 of those infected, 14 are known to have been immunized[2]. The objective of this epidemic seems to be focused exclusively on increasing the number of people immunized, with no analysis of why nearly 500 supposedly vaccinated individuals managed to contract the disease.

A similar problem can be witnessed across media and charity programs. For example the “Decade of Vaccines Collaboration” focuses on vaccinating larger quantities of people and data collection of outbreaks. Very little can be found on the importance of cold chain management, an important aspect of which is temperature data logging. Not only would improved vaccine cold chain management enhance the effectiveness of vaccinating, but logging the data would help project analysis. Organisations such as the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) would be able to better analyse why a vaccine is failing. In addition more resources need to become available, educating those involved in distribution and giving clear guidelines on vaccine storage and distribution.

A poignant example is India’s vaccine cold chain management. A 2012 study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO)[3] in India found that 89% of vaccines had been exposed to temperatures exceeding 8°C in state vaccine storage (WHO recommend that vaccines should be kept between 2°C and 8°C), before they have even been distributed to regional storage. Though every vaccine storage facility investigated could “provide records of the temperatures in the stores for the previous three months, there was no evidence to show that these records were routinely reviewed”.

What is apparent is that there needs to be a radical change in the schemes being rolled out worldwide. More emphasis needs to be placed on temperature data logging for vaccine cold chain management to ensure that developing countries receive safe, functioning vaccinations.


[1] WHO Report, see below (05/2014)

[2] World Health Organization (http://www.wpro.who.int/vietnam/mediacentre/features/measles_control_vietnam_2014/en/)

[3] http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/91/12/13-119974.pdf


Created on 16/06/2014