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An actively-cooled vaccine carrier powered by the motion of the person carrying itAn actively-cooled vaccine carrier powered by the motion of the person carrying it

  • Speculative Near-Future
  • Emergent Technology
  • Humanitarian Settings
  • Medical Application
  • Research & Design


About 1.5 million children still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases (WHO 2018). Amongst the contributing factors, WHO estimates that over 50% of vaccines are wasted globally every year because of temperature control, logistics, and shipment related issues.

Vaccines need to be kept at particular temperatures, usually refrigerated, to remain effective. This temperature-controlled supply chain, known as cold chain, is required to run from the time the vaccine is produced until it is administered. Breaches in cold chain (both reported and unreported) are an everyday reality, due to unreliable power supply and resources in rural areas all over the world.

Currently there is a high reliance on passive cold chain and other ineffective cold chain facilities for the last mile transport of vaccines, drugs and samples. Frigo aims to address this challenge through an actively cooled carrier that is powered by the motion of the person carrying it.

The Challenge

Throughout the journey from manufacturer to patient, vaccines need to be kept within a particular temperature range, most commonly 2°-8°. During this supply chain, large scale equipment like refrigerators and cold boxes are used to maintain an optimum temperature range, i.e. when they are being stored in labs and supply centres as well as in transit on planes and trucks.

However, the weakest link in this cold chain supply is the last mile transport from the regional labs to the peripheral healthcare centres. At this point in the journey, the vaccines are loaded into vaccine carriers (also known as day carriers), which are passively cooled ice boxes. The lifespan of the carriers is therefore dependent on the capacity of the ice packs to constantly provide cooling before the temperature exceeds safe limits.

If the vaccines were to escape the prescribed temperature range, they would be rendered ineffective to use and would be discarded. This creates not only a considerable loss of investment and resources but also hampers the much-needed immunisation programs running in these regions.

User Journey Map

Understanding the current practice from the user’s point of view was vital in establishing the opportunities in addressing this challenge.

The peripheral healthcare centres in most of the regions being considered are not easily accessible by larger conventional modes of transport. The healthcare workers physically carry the vaccine boxes on their back, either ride a bike for a part of the journey, take a bus, or probably even a boat, and then walk the rest of the way that cannot be travelled by any other means. This journey can sometimes take upwards of a day, maybe two, depending on the situation.

When exploring the user’s journey, the key observation came from the considerable constant motion of the vaccine carrier when in the healthcare workers possession.

Key Insights

Based on interviews with experts in the field, and documented stories of vaccine delivery and cold chain transport in resource-limited healthcare settings, I narrowed down key insights which define the problem faced currently.

Milan Design Week 2019

This year for Milan Design Week, RCA Design Products has teamed up with world leading technology brand OPPO, to explore the possibilities of personal technology though forward looking product design.

OPPO anticipates 5G will transform the potential for people's lives and that these design proposals will reveal possible solutions for intelligent life in the coming 3 to 5 years. The overall goal is creation of products, to help navigate a smart future, which are seamlessly connected by the deep integration of technology and design, and that embrace humanity.