Logistical Concerns Arise Over Extremely Low Temperatures Needed for COVID-19 Vaccine Storage

November 17, 2020 11:05:26

A few days ago, Pfizer announced that it had developed a coronavirus vaccine that had proven to be 90% effective in combating the virus in trials. However, to maintain the vaccine’s efficacy, the vaccine needs to be stored and transported at temperatures below -70º Celsius.

An infectious disease and vaccine specialist, Professor Gordon Dougan, from the University of Cambridge, explains that most vaccines are usually stored around or at 4° Celsius. This, he says, is an easy temperature requirement for refrigerated transport. However, the temperature requirements for the coronavirus vaccine, which are extreme, suggest that refrigeration methods that have been custom made/tailored may be needed to ensure the vaccine’s wide distribution. In a recent interview, Dougan also talked about the vaccine’s chain of delivery.

While more details of vaccine transportation haven’t been announced yet, the National Health Service in the UK has announced that it has been preparing for the vaccine delivery. Last week, Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, admitted that some of the coronavirus vaccine candidates required ultra-cold storage.

However, the strict temperature requirements for the vaccine pose larger challenges for countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as their infrastructure is less developed and the climates there are already hotter than in many developed nations.

The World Health Organization estimated that 70% of people globally must be vaccinated to end the coronavirus pandemic. Asia is home to about three-fifths of the world’s population.

Francisco Duque, the health secretary of the Philippines, told Reuters that the 70-degree requirement for vaccine storage was a hefty one, as the country did not have a facility that meets that requirement. He also stating that Pfizer was using new technology and given that they did not have experience with such, the risks could be high.

Dr. Alexander Edwards, a University of Readings’ associate professor in biomedical technology, stated that with all vaccines, making sure that they’re stored, distributed and administered properly is crucial. He added that huge efforts were in progress to make sure that this was possible for new vaccines.

Some reports had suggested that the COVID-19 vaccine required -80º Celsius for storage, hence the need for special storage and distribution. He added that distributors, manufacturers, pharmacists and healthcare professionals as well as medicine manufacturing and distribution networks that deliver vaccine services would be under pressure to do so and that investing in and supporting the sectors where possible would go a long way.

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