Gauteng-based medical refrigeration company, Zero Medical, a division of Zero Appliances, has developed vaccine refrigerators that can operate without electricity for up to 17 days.

The environmentally-friendly refrigerators use solar direct drive (SDD) technology that stores the energy, completely eliminating the need for batteries.

“Almost all lifesaving vaccines need to be stored at temperatures between two to eight degrees Celsius. If these vaccines are exposed to temperatures outside these parameters it loses its potency and efficiency and in some cases can be lethal when injected into a patient,” Executive Director at Zero Medical, Albert Wessels, told Kempton Express.

According to Wessels, Zero Medical is the only WHO approved manufacturer of vaccine storage refrigerators in the whole of the southern hemisphere.  He explained the fridges are WHO performance, quality and safety (PQS) approved, so they adhere to the WHO’s standards of safe and effective cold chain equipment and other products for immunisation delivery, such as vaccine carrier boxes.

“Where most manufacturers promise up to 24, maybe 48 hours for the vaccines to be maintained, we guarantee 17 days in average day and night conditions. We also guarantee no freezing of vaccines as the refrigerators are water lined. As a result, Zero appliances received a grade A freeze-protect accreditation, the best one can get from the WHO,” said Wessels.

Zero Medical’s refrigerators are ideal for healthcare facilities in low-resourced settings, because even with an unstable supply of power healthcare workers will still be able to dispense vaccines.

Damaged vaccines are also a financial burden. “For example, if a specific flu vaccine for infants costs about R500 a shot, at any given time a public healthcare facility can have a half a million to a million rands worth of stock in a single fridge. If that refrigerator goes out of range (correct temperature), you’ll have to throw it away because the vaccines will lose their potency,” said Operations Director at Zero Medical, Gerád Wessels.

The refrigeration technology has won three major international awards, including the Most Innovative New Cold Chain Technology of the Year prize at the Cold Chain Forum Excellence Awards last year in the US, and the Sustainable Refrigeration category award at the Institution of Engineering and Technology Awards in Italy. They also won the Quality of Life Innovation award at the Well Tech Awards in the UK.

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