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Here’s How SA Will Tackle the Freezing and Transit of COVID-19 Vaccines

South Africa may be in a temporary lull between COVID-19 waves but there is little doubt we will experience another wave at the very least. One express parcel business, DPD Laser, has announced their partnership with helium and natural gas company, Renergen, who have revealed the first Cryo-VaccTM COVID-19 vaccine freezer prototype. The unit can keep vaccines ultra cold, delivering a temperature range of 8ºC to -150ºC, for up to 25 days, and can store up to 780 vials (4700 doses), without a need for electricity.  

Africa has secured 12 million vials from different manufacturers, but there have been many concerns about maintaining the ultra-cold storage temperature (-70ºC and -20ºC) which must not be breached in transit, or at the point of vaccination to ensure the integrity of the vaccine. 

DPD Laser introduced ‘contactless delivery’ in April last year during Lockdown Level 5, a careful delivery process encompassing social distancing and use of technology, to ensure the safety of its drivers and customers while managing the explosive boom in ecommerce deliveries. However, the greatest challenge still lies ahead of the country. How do you transform a vaccine – which is a product in a syringe – into a vaccination which is where it is injected into the bloodstream and protects a South African, the actual outcome that needs to happen?

Importantly for DPD Laser, Cryo-VaccTM can regulate temperature and provide accurate readings whilst in transit, as well as GPS tracking to ensure the cold chain can be audited.

With the recent release of the NDoH tender for the distribution of vaccines in South Africa, Renergen decided to team up with DPD Laser which is part of The DPDgroup, a global leader, headquartered in France. DPD Laser is known for its last-mile courier express capabilities and infrastructure throughout South Africa.

“We have been serving South Africans for over 30 years, and we are excited to bring our extensive coverage and best-in-breed, technology-driven delivery services to enable mission-critical vaccine distribution using Cryo-VaccTM,” said Anton Visagie, CEO, DPD Laser.

Discussions have commenced between DPD Laser and various wholesalers throughout South Africa and neighbouring countries to establish demand for Cryo-VaccTM, and providing comparison to the traditional approach of dry-ice and cold plates. The disadvantage of the traditional cold chain approach is that temperatures cannot be adjusted when deviations are recorded from manufacturers specifications. Manufacturers allow for minimal deviation during transit and at the point of vaccination, which in most instances, do not have the required infrastructure to comply. The other advantage of using Cryo-VaccTM is that the case can be used as a temporary storage unit (25 days). This is the reason why this latest innovation is a far better solution for extreme temperature requirements. 

DPD Laser believes that no vaccine should be lost or made redundant by poor or irresponsible transportation in order to ensure our country’s vaccination program working safely and effectively. 

“This is a turning point for the country. In 2021, we have already received news of vaccines landing in our country, this week healthcare workers will start being vaccinated, and now the Cryo-VaccTM will allow DPD Laser to play our part by combining the best that South African technology has to offer, underpinned by world-class partners working together for a South African solution,” concludes Visagie.