The story of a time and temperature indicator that has dramatically changed the course of vaccine
management practices as well as shaped the future of the cold chain.

The story of Kevin, Serge and Cherifa

In early spring 2004, I was in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, working with Ticky Raubenheimer and Dianne Phillips from the Collaborative Centre for Cold Chain Management (CCCCM) for the delivery of a vaccine store management learning event at the Humewood Hotel. With the help of Dianne, I discovered this beautiful flower, Brunfelsia pauciflora.

Brunfelsia blooms purple with a white throat, then turns lavender and then white. The shrub displays all three flower colors at once as more petals bloom. It is these three shades of flowers carried simultaneously that led to its common name ‘Yesterday, today and tomorrow’.The bushy evergreen shrub is quite dense and grows to about 2 to 3 m tall. Brunfelsia is known as Morning-noon-and-night, Kiss Me Quick, and Brazil raintree. In my case, I call it the “VVM flower” because although VVM reacts from light to dark and Brunfelsia from dark to light, these amazing colors, continuously changing from violet to pale white always remind me of the VVM. Its inimitable romantic sweet scent and the wondrous beauty of the variegated colors brought me every evening to this remarkable plant. Here I would sit down by the flowering bush and think of three people, Kevin, Serge, and Cherifa. These were three completely unrelated people who had no knowledge of each other but who unwittingly shared a common bond.

Kevin Keane lives in Rockaway, New Jersey, USA with his wife and two beautiful daughters. He works at Temptime Corporation as a press operator. He and his family live for outdoor activities, be it in summer or in winter. Kevin delights in camping and fishing as well as running with his favorite dog in the woods around his home. Every day he commutes 12 km to reach his work, a job which he loves. Kevin understands the positive end-result of what he is part of and knows that being attentive and precise is critical in having the quality product to help mothers and children anywhere in the world.

Serge Ganivet, originally from France, lives in Dakar, Senegal. He works for UNICEF as an immunization supply chain specialist. He is responsible for 23 countries in total in Western and Central Africa, and is continuously on the road throughout the year. Naturally, he misses his son and daughter back in France. Whenever he manages to find some free time, no matter where he might be, he immerses himself in nature, him and the wild life… He also loves to play squash, he runs to keep fit and, when he gets the chance, he goes on safaris with the Teranga Moto Riders Club. Each year Serge travels thousands of kilometers both in the air and on the ground for work and his huge experience has taught him that the key to success lies in working closely with the people on the ground.

Cherifa lives in Indaman village, in Niger. She is a mother of three, she cooks, cleans, fetches water, takes care of children. She does not commute for work, because wherever she turns, wherever she goes is for work. It is only when the sun goes down that Cherifa, with her little Idrissa in her arms and gazing at her older girls sleeping on the floor, has time to think about her day. She caresses Idrissa and presses him to her breast. She does not know what she loves in this life, but she knows for sure that when the time comes, no matter how far or long she needs to walk, she will take Idrissa for his vaccination. She did this for the girls, and will do it for the boy.

Ibrahim Ali, a health worker in Niger, welcomes Cherifa to his outreach session and commends her for bringing Idrissa for vaccination. He has been well-trained by Serge Ganivet and immediately checks the VVM label on the vaccine vial. It is a VVM that Kevin Keane has helped to produce and Serge has full confidence in its quality. The VVM looks fine and Ibrahim quickly vaccinates Cherifa’s son Idrissa, in one moment touching the souls of these three beautiful human beings.

In a remote village in the Tchin-Tabaradene region of Niger, VVM, the little big thing, is the incredible innovation in the hands of Ibrahim Ali that unconsciously links all of these people’s lives.

Idrissa cries a little.

Cherifa smiles inside.