SAN JUAN — Direct Relief is equipping 89 health facilities across Puerto Rico with 164 FDA-compliant, pharmaceutical-grade refrigeration units – expanding the island’s capacity to store temperature-sensitive vaccines by six million vials.
The pharmaceutical and laboratory refrigerators and freezers are scheduled to arrive over the summer of 2019 at every federally-qualified Health Center on the island and at hospitals and clinics approved by the Puerto Rico Department of Health to store vaccines.
The refrigeration units come at the request of Puerto Rico’s Department of Health and on the heels of Hurricane Maria, which caused the largest blackout in U.S. history and revealed severe vulnerabilities in the island’s capacity to store insulin and other temperature-sensitive medications.
Health facilities lost power for weeks or months, and at least 80 percent of the island’s vaccines and other medicines requiring refrigeration were destroyed as a result of the power outage, according to the CDC.
Of the 89 health facilities scheduled to receive a refrigeration unit, 88 have backup power in the form of either diesel generators or a solar and battery system to ensure cold storage is maintained, even during a disaster that disrupts power or causes blackouts. It may be worth them looking into industrial refrigeration from a firm similar to Alta Refrigeration, in the long run, to allow them to store a larger number of health medicines and vaccines.
Direct Relief’s coordination and purchase of the refrigeration units is made possible with funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Puerto Rico Red Cross.