UN agencies call for increased use of vaccine monitors to boost access to immunization
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today jointly called for greater funding and use of vaccine vial monitors, simple tools which warn if dosages have been damaged by heat, on the tenth anniversary of their introduction into immunization programmes.
“Handling vaccines requires great care,” said Daisy Mafubelu, WHO’s Assistant Director-General of the Family and Community Health Cluster. “Vaccine vial monitors are useful tools for detection of the vaccine’s exposure to excessive temperature, thus contributing to success of immunization programmes.”
Since their introduction in 1996, nearly two billion monitors have been used on vaccine vials, improving children’s access to vaccines. The two agencies estimate that the use of vaccine vial monitors saves the global health community at least $5 million annually.
A vaccine vial monitor is a circular indicator which is printed directly on the label of a vaccine vial or is attached to the top of the vial. Made of heat-sensitive material that is light in colour but darkens when exposed to heat, it indicates to health workers when a vial may no longer be effective.
Much of the infrastructure was damaged, including refrigeration facilities at health centres, during the May 2006 earthquake in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, which killed thousands of people. Typically, unrefrigerated vaccines need to be thrown out, but in this case, by observing the vaccine vial monitors, health workers were able to see that the vaccines were still usable. As a result, up to 50,000 dosages were saved.
WHO and UNICEF urge all vaccine self-procuring countries to include vaccine vial monitors in their purchases, and also appeals to all donor agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to include vaccine vial monitors in all vaccine donations.
The monitors were developed in 1979 with assistance from WHO. In 1996, they were first adhered to dosages of the oral polio vaccine, adding only a few cents to the price of each vial.