COVID-19 vaccine only stored at -70 ° C: why is it a problem
On Monday, November 9, the whole world heard the good news about successful trial of the COVID-19 vaccine... But there is a serious challenge - the vaccine should be stored exclusively at ultra-low temperatures. The edition told in more detail with the BBC.
The British Minister of Health Matt Hancock called the transportation of the vaccine from Pfizer / BioNTech a "giant logistics operation."
This is because the vaccine should be stored at a temperature of at least -70 ° C.
You can remove it from this cold environment no more than four times.
This temperature is much lower than the average home freezer can provide.
Most other vaccines do not even come close to needing such low storage temperatures, so there is no extensive infrastructure to store and transport large quantities of the new vaccine.
How the vaccine will be delivered
In the short term, Pfizer has a plan.
The vaccine will be distributed from the company's own centers in the USA, Germany and Belgium.
She will be transported by land and air until she ends up in clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and other places where the vaccine will be administered to people.
Pfizer has developed a custom suitcase-sized shipping box with dry ice and GPS trackers.
If left unopened, the package can store up to 5 doses of vaccine at the correct temperature for 10 days. These boxes can be reused.
Polar Thermals, based in Wiltshire, makes similar boxes for other vaccines and has partnered with Pfizer, but not for this particular vaccine.
The box is unlikely to be cheap. Sales manager Paul Garrison says a standard refrigerated shipping box, which will keep temperatures down to -8 ° C (not -80 ° C) for five days and large enough to hold 1200 vaccines, costs about $ 6,6. for a unit.
His firm uses airgel, not dry ice. This could come in handy if global carbon dioxide shortages continue to affect the availability of by-products, such as dry ice.
The American Compressed Gas Association, however, said it is committed to meeting demand.
What happens in 10 days
After thawing, the vaccine can retain its properties for another five days, says Pfizer, but that's not enough.
In the long term, “national preparations” continue for the UK to centrally store and distribute the vaccine nationwide, according to Public Health England. But they refused to provide details.
In fact, extreme cold storage is by no means a common occurrence and is unlikely to be available to a family doctor.
And this issue is not just about Great Britain. Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota said: "We are the main medical center and we do not have such storage facilities."
The situation in developing countries is even more alarming.
The Associated Press reported last month that Burkina Faso, Central Africa, is already short of about 1000 medical refrigerators.
The World Health Organization has partnered with the UN Children's Agency Unicef to launch a cold store mapping project in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Unicef aims to install 65 solar-powered ultracold refrigerators by the end of 2021.
“Europe and North America have strong cold chain infrastructure. But if you are traveling to Africa and parts of Asia, it is very problematic, ”says Michael Burlakis, professor of logistics, procurement and procurement at the Cranfield School of Management.
“On the positive side, I know very well that there is a plan, companies have begun to plan supply chains, establishing cooperation and information exchange among themselves,” he says.
“In the supply chain, we are used to expecting the unexpected. But I must say that in this case the scale, complexity and power are unprecedented, ”the expert adds.
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