GAMBIA – The Gambian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoH) has inaugurated an Ultra-Cold Chain system effective in the storage of COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to combat the pandemic.

The chain begins with the cold storage unit at the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant, extends to the transport and delivery of the vaccines as well as correct storage at the provider facility and ends with administration of the vaccine to the patient.

Vaccines exposed to storage temperatures outside the recommended ranges may have reduced potency creating limited protection which results to revaccination of patients and plenty funds used in procuring wasted vaccines.

The Cold Chain Unit guarantees that cold chain storage facilities are in place from the moment COVID-19 vaccines leave the manufacturer to the moment they are administered ensuring that the vaccines remain effective when used.

Some vaccines require ultra-cold chain which is the ability to keep vaccines as cold as -70 degrees Celsius which is not necessarily a capability that all countries have readily available.

Consequently, when a country is able to gain access to vaccines requiring ultra-cold chain, some countries request support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in getting the necessary freezers.

Gambia was supported with the installation of the necessary electrical and other fittings by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

The Ultra-Cold Chain project in Gambia is significant in building and facilitating works of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

During the launching ceremony, Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Lamin Samateh noted that the provision of the Ultra Cold Chain Vaccines will warrant that Gambia is able to restore vaccines in the global collective endeavor against COVID-19.

“Working together with partners in the fight against Covid-19 leaves no room for duplication of efforts and strengthens the health sector in various ways,” acknowledged Hon. Samateh.

The established facility will help the country to keep COVID-19 vaccines in a cold environment.

In addition, establishing the Ultra-Cold Chain System for COVID-19 vaccines will ensure that vaccines procured are safe from the manufacturer to the consumer.

Permanent Secretary at MoH Muhammad Lamin Jaiteh explained that the Ultra Cold Chain System is used for the storage and management of vaccines that are used in their respond to fight covid-19.

He added that the Ministry of Health required specialized technique equipment including refrigerators which is very expensive for vaccines requiring special condition to preserve them over the period of their life span.

Therefore, the support from WHO and UNICEF will strengthen cold chain capacity for both routine vaccinations and COVID-19 vaccines in Gambia’s efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

UNICEF procured more than US$103 million worth of cold chain equipment and services in 2020 to ensure the cold chain continues to work effectively and efficiently in every country where the organization delivers vaccines.

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