A South African company wants to help solve the logistical challenge of keeping COVID-19 vaccinations at the extremely low temperatures necessary as they are shipped across the continent.
Johannesburg-based natural gas producer Renergen is developing an ultra-cold biologic transport freezer for the task as African countries continue to roll out comprehensive vaccination programs.
Vaccines developed jointly by United States pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, a far cry from what much of rural Africa can support.
Some nations have capitalized on vast storage and distribution infrastructure to amass stockpiles of shots from those companies.
Renergen’s design will use helium to transport vials by air and nitrogen by road, keeping them as cold as minus 150 degrees Celsius, its CEO Stefano Marani said in February 2021.
The storage case, called Cryo-Vacc, can operate without a power supply for more than 25 days, he said. Vaccines often are transported in Africa in dry ice that usually lasts only about three days. Marani said their biggest container can hold between 5,000 and 6,000 vials.
The aluminum cases also are equipped with tracking devices and monitors to evenly distribute the cold.
“This has been designed to be robust and rugged,” he said. “It has been designed for the field. You can kick it, you can drop it, you can leave it in the sun — it doesn’t care; it’s going to operate until it runs out of cryogen,” which keeps it cold.