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Research could lead to cheaper vaccines -

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ELEANOR HALL: Scientists in Britain have made a discovery that should see more children in poor
countries given effective vaccines.

One of the biggest costs of immunising children in poor countries is keeping the vaccines cool.

Now, researchers from Oxford say they've worked out how to do that cheaply and simply - just by
adding sugar.

Meredith Griffiths has our report.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Professor Trevor Duke has spent years taking part in vaccination programs in
the Asia-Pacific.

He's only just returned from Papua New Guinea.

TREVOR DUKE: Many people live many, many hours and sometimes days away from a health centre that
has vaccines. Many of the smaller health centres in rural areas aren't able to have refrigerators
because they don't have electricity.

And so, what generally happens is that health workers travel from a central site to a preferable
remote rural area with vaccines if they're going to deliver them. And that takes time, and it also
takes cold chain equipment - so it takes eskies or ice boxes, and they're quite heavy. So generally
speaking, only one day's worth of vaccines can be taken at any time.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Professor Duke says that almost all vaccines spoil if they get hotter than
about four degrees.

TREVOR DUKE: Particularly the live vaccines and particularly measles vaccines. Problems with the
cold chain have been reasons why even if children receive a measles vaccine in some tropical
developing countries, it may not be effective if the vaccine's been exposed to heat before its
administration.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: He's hopeful the problem could soon be a thing of the past.

Scientists from Oxford say they've worked out how to store two different virus-based vaccines for
up to six months at 45 degrees Celsius, or a year at 37 degrees.

A team lead by Matt Cottingham mixed the vaccines with two types of sugar then left it to dry out
on a filter.

The mixture turned into a syrup, which solidified on the membrane.

When the membrane was flushed with water, the vaccine was reanimated with only a tiny reduction in
quality.

Professor Duke from the Centre for International Child Health in Melbourne says this could go a
long way to cutting the costs of vaccination.

TREVOR DUKE: The cold chain's extremely expensive. I know for example in Papua New Guinea when
we're considering the introduction of a new vaccine, the cold chain equipment has to be revived and
there has to be a lot more of it if you're going to be able to store a new vaccine. So in Papua New
Guinea in 2008, the Haemophilus influenzae vaccine was introduced and that required a substantial
upgrading of the cold chain equipment at quite large costs.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: The World Health Organisation estimates that the logistics of keeping vaccines
cool costs up to $US200 million a year - which makes immunisation about 20 per cent more expensive.

Matt Cottingham says now people could transport vaccines to remote areas equipped with merely a
bicycle and a backpack.

Professor Duke says the implications go even further.

TREVOR DUKE: It may be possible to store vaccines in remote health facilities that don't have
refrigerators and then deliver them to nearby villages everyday of the week, rather than you know
once every three months, which is you know currently often what happens. So that's probably even
greater potential than just someone on a bicycle with a backpack. The large delivery of vaccines
for, you know, communities for extended periods of time.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: The research has just been published in the journal Science Translational
Medicine.

ELEANOR HALL: Meredith Griffiths reporting.