(387b) Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Vaccine Cold Chain Infrastructure in Developing Countries

Authors: 
Mousavi, B., University of Colorado Denver
Karunanithi, A. T., University of Colorado Denver



An important component of vaccine programs in low-and middle- income countries is the cold chain, which is a collection of cold rooms, refrigerators, freezers and cold boxes that keep vaccines at an appropriate temperature. Vaccines require cold storage (between 2o C and 8o C) in order to remain stable and be potent when administered. Heat sensitive vaccines lose potency after exposure to temperatures above the recommended range and freeze sensitive vaccines lose potency when exposed to freezing temperatures. In the next few years there is an urgent need to streamline and expand efficient and reliable cold chain infrastructure in these countries. In this context, the importance of designing and building new cold chain infrastructure that minimizes the environmental impact of energy, materials and processes both within the country and globally cannot be overstated.

In this study a complete life cycle assessment (LCA) analysis for 5 different types of vaccine refrigerators is done for the case of ghana. All of these refrigerators work in regions where accessibility to grid electricity is very minimal. Firstly, the cradle to grave life cycle inventory for each case and secondly the complete analysis of Global Warming Potential (GWP), Human Health (HH), acidification, ozone depletion and smog impacts are presented. After this LCA analysis, policy makers in developing countries can decide to choose the best option (eco-friendly) based on any environmental impacts.

The 5 different types of vaccine refrigerators selected for this study are:

  • solar powered battery supplemented refrigerator (SPBS)
  • Solar Powered battery-free refrigerator (SPBF)
  • Fully Kerosene refrigerator (FK)
  • Hybrid Kerosene- electricity refrigerator (HKE) (biomass cogeneration generates electricity)
  • Fully LPG Refrigerator (FL)

The SPBS and SPBF systems work in Vapor-Compression cycle refrigeration system and the other types work in absorption refrigeration cycle. All of these types are specific products from famous companies that produce vaccine refrigerators for developing countries all around the world.

The functional unit of this study was set as providing 1 liter cold storage for vaccines during one year. The life span time for SPBS and SPBF was 15 years and for FK,HK and FL is 5 years.

The cradle to grave unit processes of this study include: refrigerant production, insulation foam production, other materials production, photovoltaic modules production, battery production, assembly of all parts of a refrigerator, transportation, LCI of kerosene and LPG from extraction to combustion and discharge of refrigerant and insulation foam to air at the disposal phase.

The Impact assessment results show that FK and SPBF vaccine refrigerators have respectively the highest and lowest GWP and HH impacts. On the other hand, if the HKE used instead of FK all of the environmental impacts decrease dramatically.