January 27, 2012 | The Editors

Milestones: world’s smartest sticker

For the next few months, we’re highlighting notable achievements in our history. We started with our work in modernizing contraceptive factories in China. Now, here’s the second in our series on milestones from PATH’s first 35 years.

1970s: Developed vaccine vial monitors

Hands holding three vaccine vials with vaccine vial monitor stickers.
Vaccine vial monitors. Photo: PATH/Yancy Seamans.

The health challenge: Vaccines must be transported and stored at the proper temperature to maintain their potency. Health workers in developing countries had no way to know if a vaccine had been damaged by exposure to heat, forcing them to discard large quantities of lifesaving vaccines if they were not sure the vaccines could be used safely for immunization.

What we did: Starting in the late 1970s, PATH pioneered the use of a dime-sized sticker—the vaccine vial monitor—that adheres to a vaccine vial and changes color as the vaccine is exposed to heat.

The result: Vaccine vial monitors became commercially available in 1996 from our commercial partner, Temptime, and are now placed on all vaccines distributed by UNICEF, with more than 3.5 billion monitors used. Over the next decade, we estimate the monitors will allow health workers to identify and replace more than 230 million doses of damaged vaccines and to deliver 1.4 billion more doses in remote settings, saving more than 140,000 lives. UNICEF and the World Health Organization estimate that use of the monitors, even just on basic vaccines, saves the global health community US$5 million a year.

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