Vaccines, like many medicines, are finicky. To stay safe, they need to be stored in very specific conditions. Give them too much heat or too much light, and they can become ineffective. The current need to refrigerate vaccines makes them difficult to safely transport and distribute. Because of this, areas with improper health infrastructure see drastically lower vaccination rates.
In an attempt to make vaccines safer and more accessible, a team of researchers at McMaster University came up with a cheap and effective method for storing vaccines at room temperature. By preserving the vaccination in something called a “sugar film,” vaccines survive as long as three months at 104 degrees Fahrenheit!
The researchers were thrilled to find that, while testing the higher-temperature “sugar film” treated vaccines on mice, they were just as effective as the refrigerated vaccines.
The McMaster scientists are only one of many groups trying to make vaccines safer, cheaper, and more accessible to people around the world. For example, last year, a group of researchers managed to genetically engineer a vaccine that naturally kept itself safe at higher temperatures without adding any other chemicals.
Meanwhile, other groups have tried to identify affordable and efficient preservatives to increase the shelf-life of vaccines. What makes the McMaster research promising, though, is the fact that its ingredients are cheap and already FDA-approved. This means their “sugar-film” method could be a lot more affordable and easier to implement in the near future.