How cold storages are critical in India’s fight against Covid-19?
To maintain the effectiveness of vaccine, cold storage system is essential and this is what Jesal Doshi of B Medical Systems argues
“Vaccines are nothing but just water if not stored at the right temperature,” says the Chief Executive Officer of B Medical Systems’ India’s operations Jesal Doshi, adding that at this time, India must manufacture technologically advanced cold storage units for vaccines.
In an exclusive interview with India News Network, Doshi said, “I think for a common person when you take the vaccine, it is nothing but an attenuated virus similar to the coronavirus but meant to induce the immune response and create antibodies. The biggest challenge with all of these vaccines is that they are very temperature sensitive so they typically need to be maintained at 2 to 3 degree Celsius and what happens is if you don’t maintain it at that temperature the attenuated virus in the vaccine does not live, which means what you are injecting in your body is just water.”
“So, you may be thinking that you are taking a vaccine which provides protection and creates antibodies but if it is not stored at the right temperature, all you are taking is water. So, it creates a false impression that yes I have antibodies, I am protected and again today when you hear that there are many cases even if they have taken the vaccine are getting infected with Covid. And one of the reasons is that the vaccine itself has not been proven extensively. But many of the times it would simply mean that it was not stored properly. And for no fault of the vaccine, you get infected,” he added.
B Medical Systems is a Luxembourg-based global manufacturer of vaccine cold chain and medical refrigeration. The company has started its manufacturing unit in Mumbai, which is functional since April mid-week. It has plans to set up cold storage manufacturing and logistics plants pan India.
The Luxembourg based vaccine cold storage manufacturer has signed the Memorandum of Understandings with SpiceExpress and also with Adani Logistics to set up logistics centers at airports and beyond to provide transportation and distribution of any temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical items.
India is amid a crisis as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the entire nation. With more than 3 lakh cases recording every day since last week, the only silver lining seems to be the vaccination. However, in the words of Doshi, the vaccine is nothing but water if not stored at the right temperature.
For this, India needs much more than just vaccine cold storage units, which the country currently has, considering the scorching heat in the summer season. While the Made-in-India vaccines Covishield and Covaxin require being stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, it is hard to attain in the Indian summer season, said Doshi.
“You are right that the Indian vaccines are stored at a much higher temperature than Pfizer. But having said that even Covaxin and Covishield need to be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius at all times. Considering the summer in India, 2 to 8 degrees is not easy to maintain because you do have temperatures going up to 45 to 50 degrees in many parts of the country so it is less challenging than Pfizer which requires -80 degrees but it is still not easy,” he said.
Explaining how B Medical Systems vaccine cold storage units will accelerate the process in this regard, Doshi said, “We do have one-the experience globally as we have been doing this for more than 40 years and what sets us apart is that we have been doing this in various locations from Europe, US, to Africa. There is a certain level of solution expertise that we bring that most people do not have today. Secondly, we have the entire product solutions so it is not just at the pharmaceutical manufacturers but starting from pharmaceutical manufacturers in let say Serum Institute in Pune to let say a very remote village in the Northeast of the country, there is a long journey that the vaccine needs to make always at 2 to 8 degree Celsius and even once it reaches the village, it needs to be stored at 2 to 8 degrees all the time till it is administered. For the entire journey, we have a solution where you are monitoring remotely of your entire chain. So, you would know at any point, what is the temperature of the vaccine then, in what location, and if there was a breach or not. For us, it takes only 5 seconds to know if vaccine breach happened or not and I think that is very powerful information to provide.”
“And of course when it comes to cooling technologies, we have a wide variety of cooling technology. We can store and transport vaccines from -80 degrees Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius,” he added.
Keeping in mind the vastness of India, facilitating this mass production comes with its own challenges. Further, nothing can be planned at this uncertain time of the pandemic.
Speaking about how the company is tackling the challenges while manufacturing in India, Doshi said, “I think the biggest challenge with India is its vastness and its transportation leg. Our first product is the transport solution which is a single solution for any vaccine so you can store a Covishield, Covaxin but also the Sputnik Vaccine, which requires storage at -20 degree Celsius. So our focus is on having a single solution for any vaccine. We are building our centers around the country to be able to provide that solution to any customer.”
This is the first time that B Medical Systems has started manufacturing outside Luxembourg. The company also plans to look at India as an export hub to neighboring geographies especially in the middle-east, Africa, and Southeast Asia, said Doshi.
Keeping in mind the current situation in India, B Medical System has further planned to increase its capacity in the coming days to at least 10 times more every day.
Reminding that Covid is here to stay not for months but for years to come, Doshi said, “It is also not just you get vaccinated once and that is enough. You will most likely need to get vaccinated every year. There will be variants of vaccines as it might not work for all Covid variants. It is a process of trial and error. The fight to eliminate Covid is not unfortunately a sprint but a marathon. So, we are here for a long run. But we have already established manufacturing to work with the country and support them in the short run.”