Keeping it Cool: The Integral Role of Cold Storage in Safeguarding the Medical Supply Chain

Jul 19, 2023

Controlled Environment Agriculture

In the intricate ecosystem of healthcare, every element performs a critical function. One element that often gets overlooked yet holds immense importance is the role of cold storage. This practice involves preserving items in a low-temperature controlled environment, a process vital in preserving the efficacy of medical supplies. These supplies include life-saving vaccines, organs for transplantation, pharmaceuticals, and many more. Without adequate cold storage, these essential components could be rendered useless, compromising patient health and medical progress. However, cold storage is often overlooked in many supply chains, especially in remote areas where access to healthcare is already difficult. Here, we will explore the role of cold storage in the medical industry and address some of its shortcomings.

If you’re interested in building sustainable, cutting-edge cold storage facilities to help extend the viable range of your medical supplies, MJM Install offers efficiently-built, custom cold storage designs. With nationwide build crews and more than 10 years of industry experience, we have a proven standard of quality that we bring to every project.

The Biggest Innovation in Pharmaceutical and Vaccine Preservation

One of the most prominent examples of cold storage applications in healthcare lies in pharmaceutical and vaccine preservation. A significant portion of these substances require strictly maintained temperature ranges to retain their effectiveness. An example of the intense demands of medicine is the Hepatitis B vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the Hepatitis B vaccine needs to be stored within a temperature range of 2 C to 8 C (35.6 F to 46.4 F) to ensure its potency, though care must be taken not to freeze it. Without a carefully constructed cold storage facility with precise temperature controls, it is easy to improperly store such vaccines.

Indeed, this facet of cold storage gained global attention during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine necessitated ultra-cold storage conditions at about -70 C (-94 F) to maintain its efficacy. Any deviation from this stringent requirement would render the vaccines ineffective, which could have severely hampered the global immunization campaign. This example vividly demonstrates how specialized cold storage is necessary for meeting public health demands, especially in areas where ultra-cold storage is not a common or viable accommodation.

Cold Storage is Essential to Organ Transplantation

In addition to preserving pharmaceuticals and vaccines, cold storage also plays a life-saving role in the field of organ transplantation. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network reports that more than 40,000 transplants were conducted in the United States in 2021 alone. Cold storage makes this feat possible by preserving organs in a viable state from the time they’re procured until the moment they are transplanted.

Different organs require different storage durations and conditions. For instance, kidneys can be safely stored for up to 24 hours, while hearts and lungs have a much narrower window of only 4-6 hours. If the storage conditions are compromised or if there are delays in transplantation, it could mean the difference between life and death for the patient waiting for the organ.

The Underlying Challenges in the Medical Cold Chain

Despite the crucial role it plays, cold storage management presents its fair share of challenges. The so-called “cold chain,” a temperature-controlled supply chain, needs to be maintained meticulously to prevent breaches that could compromise medical supplies.

Ensuring the integrity of the cold chain is particularly challenging in remote or under-resourced regions. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 50 percent of vaccines are wasted globally each year, with a significant portion of this waste attributed to inadequate temperature control and logistics management. This not only represents a substantial loss to public health and potentially lost lives but has a staggering loss of investment as well. Therefore, there is an urgent need to devise innovative and scalable cold storage solutions that can cater to these regions, many of which need cold storage support for food besides.

Embracing Innovation: The Future of Cold Storage

Fortunately, innovation is at the forefront of meeting these challenges. With more efficiently designed cold storage facilities, not only do they become more secure in their preservation but they become more economical as well. A huge hurdle in constructing cold storage has historically been that it has been difficult to justify economically.

Developments like insulated flooring, airtight windows, and solar-powered refrigeration units are offering sustainable cold storage solutions for remote areas. These units ensure that even the most rural healthcare centers can store vaccines and other temperature-sensitive medical supplies safely.

What’s more, is that many of these facilities can be partitioned to serve multiple functions and service multiple industries. Tons upon tons of food are wasted each year due to a lack of effective cold storage that can bridge the seasonal gaps in demand. Providing effective, sustainable cold storage solutions for these areas can not only ensure safe medical supplies are delivered but ensure that crops are safely and reliably delivered as well.

Cold Storage is a Pillar of the Medical Supply Chain

Cold storage is an essential component of the medical supply chain. As the world continues to grapple with significant health challenges, ranging from organ transplantation to large-scale immunization programs, the role of cold storage becomes increasingly central. Efficient, reliable, and innovative cold storage solutions are not just a requirement — they are a necessity in safeguarding the integrity of our healthcare systems and ensuring the continued delivery of life-saving medical interventions.

With detail-oriented project management, transparent budgeting and documentation, and full-service building methods, MJM Install is well-equipped to help any enterprising business expand its operations. We design our cold storage systems with sustainability and functionality in mind. Whether you’re seeking to bridge the seasonal agricultural gaps or looking to expand the range of viable and safe medical supply delivery, MJM Install has a cold storage solution for you. Contact MJM Install today to start your journey.

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