Deep-freeze case could help transport vaccines in Africa

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  • Gas producer Renergen is developing a transport freezer for Covid-19 vaccines.
  • The case is able to keep the vaccines at between -150°C to 8°C during transportation.
  • It can operate without power for 25 days.


A South African company is seeking to help solve the logistical nightmare of keeping Covid-19 vaccinations at the ultra-cold 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 countries throughout Africa plan for rollouts of comprehensive vaccination programmes.

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The vaccines, developed jointly by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech, must be stored at -70°C, a far cry from what much of rural Africa can support.

Wealthier nations have capitalised on their vast storage and distribution infrastructure to amass stockpiles of shots from those companies.

Renergen's design would use helium to transport vials by air and nitrogen by road, keeping them at between -150°C to 8°C, its CEO, Stefano Marani, said on Wednesday.

Cryo-Vacc
Stefano Marani, CEO of Renergen company, checks frozen specimens stocked using a prototype of Cryo-Vacc, an ultra-cold biologic transport unit, in Dunkeld West, Johannesburg.

The storage case, called Cryo-Vacc, could operate without a power supply for more than 25 days, he added.

Vaccines are often transported in Africa in dry ice that usually lasts about only three days.

Marani said the company's biggest container could hold between 5 000 and 6 000 vials.

The aluminium cases are also equipped with tracking devices and monitors to evenly distribute the freezing temperatures.

"This has been designed to be robust and rugged," he told AFP.

"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."

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