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Vaccine thermometer for use in maintaining the cold chain, England, 1994

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Vaccines need to be kept below certain temperatures to remain effective. To prevent them from spoiling when being transported over long distances and in hot climates, a ‘cold chain’ system is established. This refers to the various means by which the vaccine is kept cool – from when it leaves the laboratory to when it is needed for use. This thermometer was developed to monitor the temperature of a mobile cold unit made for use in areas lacking the electrical supply needed for more conventional refrigerators. Made by S Brannan & Sons Ltd, this thermometer was approved for use in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) run by UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Fund) and the WHO (World Health Organisation). The EPI aims to vaccinate the world’s children against the biggest childhood killers, such as diphtheria. When the programme was launched in 1974, fewer than five per cent of children were vaccinated. Today that figure is eighty per cent.

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    Glossary: vaccination

    The introduction of vaccine into the body for the purpose of inducing immunity. Coined originally to apply to the injection of smallpox vaccine, the term has come to mean any immunising procedure in which vaccine is injected.

    Glossary: vaccine

    A substance given to humans or animals to improve immunity from disease. A vaccine can sometimes contain a small amount of bacteria that is designed to stimulate the body's reaction to that particular disease. The first vaccine was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner to prevent smallpox.

    Glossary: diphtheria

    An acute highly contagious infection, generally affecting the throat but occasionally other mucous membranes and the skin. Diphtheria has been largely eradicated due to world-wide vaccination efforts.

    Glossary: thermometer

    Instruments for measuring temperature by utilizing the variation of the physical properties of substances according to their thermal states..