Device Childhood immunization is one of the greatest success stories in modern medicine, but due to the lack of access to life-saving vaccines, about 1.5 million children die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Immunization rates are the lowest in impoverished rural areas that lack the infrastructure and reliable power sources to keep vaccines at the low temperatures needed to maintain their safety and effectiveness.
Through Global Good, an innovation lab founded by Bill Gates and Intellectual Ventures, the foundation has worked with one of China's largest refrigeration companies, AUCMA, to develop and manufacture a vaccine storage device called Arktek™ that can keep vaccines at appropriate temperatures for a month or more. The super-insulated device uses only ice — no propane, batteries, electricity, solar panels, or other power sources are necessary at the point of use.
Arktek™ can handle travel over rough roads and use in harsh environments, making it ideal for rural areas and for outreach work, or as a stationary device at rural health posts. Arktek™ has enough storage capacity to serve the ongoing needs of a community of about 6,000 people.
The WHO designated Arktek™ as prequalified under its Performance, Quality and Safety (PQS) program in January 2015. PQS prequalification is required by most governments in the developing world for the procurement and use of medical devices, and it represents a seal of approval for real-world conditions.
Clinical trials of Arktek™ are in progress in Nigeria, India, Senegal and Ethiopia, and the device is already receiving positive feedback from users.
In early 2015, AUCMA produced a modified Arktek™ device specifically designed to store Ebola vaccines, providing the WHO with a viable solution for storing and transporting life-saving vaccines in West Africa. This device can keep Ebola vaccines frozen at temperatures of -60 to -80 degrees Celsius for at least three days in a tropical environment.