EMPLOYEES at a Bognor Regis firm are helping children in some of the world’s poorest countries to receive lifesaving vaccines.
The 20 Polestar Cooling staff members, and their national partner Dulas, make solar-powered medical fridge-freezers that are used to preserve the medication in countries where power supplies are often unreliable.
The government’s Department for International Development is working with the companies and the Gavi vaccine alliance to supply the essential equipment to Djibouti and Togo through the UK aid scheme. Phil Polack, Polestar’s managing director, said: “Our fridge is better than a standard fridge because it does not require a battery.
“This means the fridge has a ten-year lifespan. The old battery-style fridge used to have breakdowns and would need engineers that were very hard to find and would mean that children were not getting immunised.”
Polestar’s factory, in Beeding Close, on the Southern Cross industrial estate, produces some 2,000 fridges and freezers a year. Many are made for its partner, Dulas, a pioneer in solar-powered refrigeration systems.
Those which are sent overseas to be used for vaccines are typically 200 litre fridge-freezers. The medicines are stored in the fridge compartment and the ice to keep them cool on journeys into remote areas is produced in the freezer.
Outside of safe temperatures, vaccines deteriorate and become unusable.
British international development secretary Penny Mordaunt said the products showed the worth of British aid around the globe.
“From the telephone to the solar fridge, British invention and innovation continues to make a huge difference across the world.
“UK aid is a badge of hope for millions of people, and that starts with the work of fantastic Brits like those manufacturing these life-saving devices in Bognor Regis.
“Our work with Gavi not only protects over half the world’s children from disease, but tackles outbreaks before they can reach our shores.
This month has seen Dulas deliver 113 solar medical fridge-freezers to Togo. It sent 26 to Djibouti last year.
Between 2015 and 2017, the company installed almost 2,000 fridge-freezers with support from Gavi, to reach some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
This equipment means that children in countries like Burma and Sierra Leone are being given lifesaving vaccines.
Dr Seth Berkley, Gavi’s chief executive, said: “Vaccines are not like normal pharmaceuticals.
“They are extremely sensitive to temperature and can quickly become ineffective if they are not kept cold at all times.
“That’s why innovative solar refrigerators like those produced by Dulas are so important.”
Gavi focuses on the 68 poorest countries in the world by funding vaccines against some of the deadliest diseases such as pneumonia and measles.