Despite reminders to wear a mask, practice safe distancing, staying away from large crowds, washing one’s hands often, getting tested if one has any symptoms etc., the number of cases continues to grow throughout the world as well as here in Ontario.
Thankfully there are vaccine options in the works, but even when one is proven safe and effective, the logistics are many. Issues such as having enough for everyone and having it available within a reasonable time, and getting it safely to the public, are all concerns. The issue of storage and transportation of the vaccine is an important consideration.
Refrigeration was the one drawback of the Salk vaccine for polio, which was pronounced safe and effective in 1955. The Sabin vaccine, however, which became available in 1961 in the U.S., did not need refrigeration.
The Salk vaccine is given by injection, so trained staff are needed, whereas the Sabin vaccine is given orally, so it is cheaper to administer. This being the main reason it came to be the vaccine used in underdeveloped countries of the world. It also replaced the Salk vaccine in the U.S. for about 40 years after it was developed. But the U.S. changed back to using the Salk vaccine and has been doing so since 2000, thinking it is safer than the Sabin vaccine as there is no live virus in the Salk vaccine. Whereas the Sabin vaccine is based on a live, weakened form of the virus, so it has some risk of getting polio. Because of this, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is phasing out using the Sabin vaccine and is now using the Salk vaccine only. But the challenge remains with the fact it needs to be kept at 35-46 degrees Fahrenheit (2-8 degrees Celsius). However, If stored in this way, it can is still effective for four years.
But, the refrigeration issue remains to be a dilemma, so researchers are now experimenting, looking for possible ways to overcome this problem and maybe coming up with a possible solution. This is exciting news.
Today, one of the vaccine choices presently being considered for combating COVID-19 also has this problem of refrigeration and might benefit from these researchers’ findings.
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