Vaccines must be continuously cooled to remain effective. Reliable refrigeration is also vital for storing some medicines, e.g. liquid antibiotics. Fail-safe refrigeration to store vaccines and medicines within a specified range of temperature is therefore critical to the effectiveness of any vaccination or public health program.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends equipment for the storage (cold rooms, refrigerators, freezers) and transport (cold boxes, vaccine carriers) of vaccines and medicines and has defined a set of performance standards for these.
Solar vaccine coolers are already in use in parts of the world that lack electricity. In 2010, the first solar direct-drive vaccine refrigerator was prequalified by WHO, meeting a new set of performance, quality, and safety (PQS) standards for solar direct-drive refrigerators. Currently, a wide number of both refrigerator only and combined freezer-fridges from various brands have been accredited by WHO.
Vaccine refrigerators that can be powered by a variety of energy sources can alleviate the problem of non-existing or insufficient electrical supply. These units have proven to be more reliable than kerosene powered counterparts. Solar-direct-drive and multi-sourced vaccine coolers can also be of great benefit under emergency circumstances such as natural disasters or war conditions, creating off-grid situations.
10,000 to 20,000 vaccine coolers are estimated to be needed in developing countries per year.
Currently there are between 15,000 to 20,00 SolarChill vaccine coolers installed in medical centers around the world (Africa, Asia, Latin America, Caribbean). SolarChill A units are also used in human made and natural disaster areas such as war, earthquakes or tsunamis. For example, Médicins Sans Frontières installed SolarChill units in refugee camps in Chad and Sudan, and UNICEF sent SolarChill units to earthquake damaged zones in Haiti.
Among the leading brands for vaccine refrigerators are manufacturers like Vestfrost (Denmark); Sure Chill (UK) with license Zero (South Africa) and Godrej&Bojce (India); Haier (China); B Medical (formerly Dometic in Belgium); Dulas (UK); and The Fridge Factory (known as Palfridge in Swaziland).