A simple solution to maintaining life-saving vaccines

5 min Source: TED Talk
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From polluted water to COVID-19, in this TED Talk, an engineer explains how she was driven to save as many lives as possible given the recent pandemic.


In this TED Talk, engineer Nithya Ramanathan discusses her experience in rural Bangladesh involving deploying sensors to test groundwater. The tech she was installing measured the problem but didn't solve it. Her solution was to raise funds to hire engineers to dig a deep well, bypass the arsenic polluting the water, and provide clean water for the locals. But as soon as she boarded the plane to return to the US, she started worrying about malfunctions and the local population having to drink polluted water. COVID-19, research led her to think about better ways to monitor refrigerated vaccines. Fridge failure is a big problem, and it can happen anywhere. 

One study in South Asia found that more than half of vaccine doses showed temperature damage by the end of their journey. 

In California, in 2015, Stanford Children's Health discovered a fridge that had been malfunctioning for up to eight months. Staff contacted 1,500 families about revaccinating those children.

But what if you couldn't just get the families on the phone because they lived a six-hour walk away? Ramanathan pushed ahead with her plans and installed real-time sensor data in over 15,000 sites across Asia and Africa. It works by sending a text message to a technician if the fridge is malfunctioning. Sensor data can improve lives by providing coordinated action required to maintain lifesaving equipment—transcript available here.