100 degrees below zero is hard to find and maintain.

Yesterday, Pfizer announced their phase III clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective. Other than a few details, there is a lot of mystery surrounding what 90% effective really means. That aside, today an article came to my attention about the distribution of this vaccine when it is approved and manufactured.

Distribution Issues

https://www.newsmax.com/finance/streettalk/pfizer-covid-vaccine-local-pharmacy/2020/11/09/id/996209/ The storage requirements for Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine will preclude doctors’ offices, pharmacists, and other retail places that one could get a flu shot. Some hospitals will be able to store the vaccine but not all. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota does not have that capability, for example. What about overseas where electricity is difficult to find?

Obviously, the first people entitled to be vaccinated will be first responders, healthcare workers, and maybe those living in nursing homes. There is no word yet on side effects, particularly with those who have pre-existing conditions.

This new vaccine uses synthetic mRNA to activate our immune systems to fight the virus. It must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius – that is minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. How to do you keep the vaccine at nearly one hundred degrees below zero during shipment and storage. One easy answer is dry ice. But is that the best answer?

CDC Recommendations

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/admin/storage/toolkit/storage-handling-toolkit.pdf  The CDC provides guidance, to a degree. It is not just storing the vaccine at nearly 100 degrees below zero, the system that provides the vaccine to the end-user (us), must have well-trained staff, reliable storage, and temperature monitoring equipment, and accurate vaccine inventory management.

All three requirements must be adhered to. If the cold storage process is not maintained, the vaccine potency can be degraded and even made useless. Logistics is always a problem when you do not plan for it adequately.

The Plan

Dry ice is readily available and is part of the plan to ship the vaccine and maintain the low temperature required. The vaccine will last up to six months when maintained around 100 degrees below zero, but only five days when stored slightly above freezing (F).

Vaccines from competitors (Johnson & Johnson and Novavax) can be stored at much higher temperatures than the Pfizer vaccine. Details still need to be worked out for the Pfizer vaccine to be used worldwide. Do not plan on getting vaccinated within the next six months if you are not in the higher priority categories.

San Francisco Options

https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Some-coronavirus-vaccines-need-to-be-stored-at-15711275.php  Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, CA will soon be receiving portable ultra-freezers. These freezers will adequately handle the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine when it is released to the public.

The main storage freezers cost around $10,000 each and can store 30,000 doses of vaccine at minus 80 degrees C. Portable freezers cost around $8,000 and can store 12,000 doses. The portable freezers will be used to transport the vaccine from one location in the Bay Area to another. The logistics plan is still being developed.

Other health departments and healthcare providers are ordering equipment to meet the requirements of the Pfizer vaccine.


Other companies have nearly finished their clinical tests for COVID-19 vaccines. Is there economic value in waiting a couple of months rather than making the investment in ultra-low freezing capability now?

There are so many things coming to fruition at nearly the same time. 90% effectiveness is a great number. If a competitor’s effectiveness is 50%, what governments will make the investment in their vaccines? There are many unknowns that need answering. However, logistics planning must be implemented to handle the Pfizer vaccine now.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com


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