Posted by Clifton Movirongo | Jan 13, 2023 | Health
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Right-to-Care Equip project for the Ministry of Health and Social Services, recently funded four state-of-the-art portable ultra-low-temperature medical freezer units to ascertain that vaccines reach clinics that are located in remote areas far away from the medical cold storage in the capital. Automatic Liquid Handling Workstation
This week, the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek helped deliver vaccines to the Onandjokwe Intermediate Hospital near the town of Ondangwa. A 55-year-old Namibian, Linea Absalom, was one of the recipients, as she received her first COVID-19 vaccination at the said hospital. Absalom was full of joy and excitement. “I just like to feel safe, and the vaccination means that I can be safe,” Absalom said.
The vaccine that she received came a long way as the hospital is located about 800 kilometers north of the capital, Windhoek. According to the U.S. Embassy Spokesperson, Tiffany Miller, for health facilities such as this, the number of daily vaccinations fluctuates significantly. She added that sometimes the hospital requests as few as ten vials per order.
Miller added the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNtech must be continually kept at temperatures between minus 60 and minus 80 degrees Celsius—a challenge in a hot and vast country like Namibia, where the vaccines need to reach clinics that are located in remote areas far away from medical cold storages.
“The solution came with the introduction of small portable ultra-low-temperature freezers that look like high-tech camping cooler boxes,” said the U.S. Embassy Spokesperson.
They are battery-powered and can maintain the required ultra-low temperature over many hours – the ideal means of transport for the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine. Further, due to the efficient ultra-cold supply chain with the help of USAID’s mobile freezers, COVID-19 vaccines can reach any Namibian health facility in a day.
Absalom’s vaccine arrived at her hospital with one of the four portable ultra-low-temperature freezers. One of these state-of-the-art portable medical freezer units costs close to N$250,000.
In addition, partnering with Namibia’s postal service, NamPost, the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program is responsible for the logistics to ensure the cold chain is not broken until the vaccine reaches its destination, even to the farthest reaches of the country.
“As soon as a health facility orders a batch of vaccine vials, NamPost staff will turn on one of the mobile freezers to reach ultra-cold temperature within three to four hours,” said Miller.
Furthermore, the freezer is placed on the passenger seat so the driver can monitor the temperature throughout the transport.
NamPost driver Stanley /Uirab explained that drivers on this particular stretch need to be very quick. “I have to get the freezer from the storage room to the car within seconds and immediately connect it to the battery,” he said, adding that only when the vaccine has safely arrived and is ready to be administered into the arm of a Namibian, I can confidently say “mission accomplished”.
USAID Country Representative, Dr. McDonald Homer, explained that the U.S. government had supported Namibia’s fight against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. USAID, together with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has so far invested about N$350 million in Namibia’s COVID response.
“Thanks to the small mobile ultra-low-temperature freezers that go the last extra mile to ensure safe vaccine delivery, Absolom will get her second COVID shot in a few weeks,” Miller said.
“It’s just 40 kilometers from my village to Onandjokwe Hospital. I have to come back and get the second dose. I know the vaccines are professionally handled, they are safe, and they reduce the risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID infection,” Absolom expressed.
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