Ashutosh Biltharia’s ‘cool’ design preserves vaccines

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Ashutosh BilthariaIn March this year, WHO officially declared India ‘polio-free’ .  Achieving this status isn’t a mean feat for a country having over a billion people. The entire credit for this goes to the Pulse Polio Immunisation drive through which oral polio vaccines are administered to every child. Such immunization programmes require storing and transporting vaccines to the remotest parts of the country while maintaining the cold chain’ (i.e., keeping the vaccine at a low temperature). Cold storage of vaccines is a huge challenge; if the process is disrupted it can make the vaccine ineffective and cause outbreak of diseases.

NID student Ashutosh Biltharia has designed a Portable Vaccine Cooler(PVC) to overcome the shortcomings present in currently used vaccine carriers. His PVC  is a compact, robust and ergonomically designed vaccine cooler which is lighter and offers improved usability when compared to current vaccine carriers.

The innovation

“Generally LLDPE (Linear Low Density Polyethylene) plastic  is used as the body material for most of the vaccine carriers available in the market.But I have proposed HDPE (High Density Poly Ethylene) for the vaccine cooler’s body because it is stronger and has more resistance to higher temperature.  I carried out research in desert areas of Rajasthan in May and saw the actual scenario where carriers are being used in extreme summer conditions.So I have proposed HDPE as it has more resistance to higher temperature”, said Ashutosh while talking to I See India about his innovation.

The material properties and geometry ensure that the vaccines are kept between 2 – 8 degree C for required duration. Packaging of vaccines inside the cooler has been designed in such a way that it can accommodate maximum nos. of vaccine vials at a time, in a lesser overall volume. His packaging redesign has not only increased the capacity, but also incorporated changes keeping in mind actual rural conditions.

” Packaging of vaccine vials is also very important part of design because current vaccine carriers use no packaging for vaccine vials inside the container; they just keep vaccine in loose polythene bag and keep that bag in vaccine carrier. This vaccine carrier with vaccine vials is then transported on bike to vaccination site by delivery persons. One delivery person carries around four of them at one time and they somehow hang them on bike and transport it. During my research, I found that village roads were broken and in bad condition that caused the Vaccine carrier (with vaccine vials loosely kept inside)to  topples during this transport, which in turn may cause breaking of vials.  To avoid this, packaging of vaccine vials has been designed in such a way that you keep vaccines carrier in any orientation (even upside down) but vaccine vials will be at its place. They won’t topple or break.”

Biltharia’s project is funded by the design clinic scheme of the Union ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).

The inspiration

What prompted a final year design student at India’s premier design school to work on such a non-glamorous project?

“The project was suggested by one of my faculties. I have always wanted to work in the rural sector and I also liked the project brief because I had never done any project in the medical domain earlier. So this was the right opportunity to explore medical device field as well as solve a problem in the rural sector.”

India has one of the largest Universal Immunization Program (UIP) in the world in terms of quantities of vaccines used. Started in 1985, UIP currently offers vaccines against 7 diseases- tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis(whooping cough), tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles and Hepatitis B. While the UIP statistics demand a stronger infrastructure for the entire vaccine delivery system, let’s hope that Ashutosh’s product just marks the beginning of the uphaul.

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