The two viable Coronavirus vaccines in the US today come from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna manufacturers. Both companies used an approach only recently put into practice for immunization purposes.
Many questions arose as a result. One of the significant issues is storage, as both options have precise specifications.
Let's examine what these requirements mean for the organizations tasked with administering the shots and explore the implications they might have for wide-spread immunization.
THE COLD REQUIREMENT: Why and How
The mRNA ingredient, pivotal for vaccine effectiveness, also imposes the cold temperature demand.
The messenger RNA component is fragile and quick to break down in the wrong conditions. Scientists couldn't work their way around this issue quickly enough to match the pandemic-induced urgency.
Pfizer shot storage and shipment must remain at a temperature of -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna's solution is a bit more forgiving, requiring -4 degrees Fahrenheit. If the cold chain doesn't maintain these temperatures, certain ingredients could degrade, deeming the entire vial useless.
When it comes to storage duration, Pfizer is again more demanding. It can last up to five days in standard refrigerator conditions, while Moderna endures as long as 30 days.
The cold-storage shelf life is up to six months, though. The doses don't have to get administered upon arrival if there's proper equipment, somewhat facilitating the logistics.
Vaccine Storage Units
First off, classic and dormitory-style units are unacceptable. The authorities prohibit the use of such refrigerators for storing any vaccine purchase with public funds.
Your organization will need to obtain a laboratory-grade unit to avoid temperature control issues. As experts from American Biotech Supply explain: preciseness, verification, and recovery are necessary for safe storage.
Regarding combination versus stand-alone units, the CDC recommends the latter. Combination freezers are less capable of maintaining temperatures in both areas simultaneously.
You should also:
- Move the vaccines away from the vents
- Avoid the top shelf due to temperature circulation
- Avoid using the freezer for other purposes
- Avoid opening and closing the doors more often than necessary
There's a lot to think about, especially for smaller labs and immunization centers. Still, these requirements ensure that all activity within the organization is conductive to combating the pandemic.
THE COLD REQUIREMENT: Vaccine Availability
The ultra-low freezing process leads to the subject of wide scale distribution. Most clinics don't have the right equipment to handle such demands. Even most hospitals don't own the type of freezer necessary to achieve the consistent sub-zero temperatures.
The distribution will be limited to an organization's ability to meet the requirements until more government and private organizations procure the necessary units.
Moderna's option is quite flexible when compared to Pfizer, though. So, as this alternative gets produced in larger quantities, it should facilitate the administration process.
What About Multi-Dose Vials?
Both vaccines are double-dose. Recipients get two shots several weeks apart. However, if the doses come in one vial, it further complicates the temperature-related logistics.
Health professionals will have to strategically thaw and administer doses before returning them to the freezer.
FURTHER VACCINE EXPECTATIONS
Apart from developing higher technical expertise and equipping more distribution centers, other vaccines could solve these problems.
Notably, not every option in development relies on mRNA technology. Traditional production methods pose much less of a challenge in this respect.
Moreover, as we see the second generation of mRNA solutions to fight COVID-19, they might overcome the ultra-cold storage issue.
For now though, we take what we can get. With such high efficiency and safety rates, the cold-related concerns are far from detrimental.
Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion for providing knowledge to readers worldwide on topics closest to her heart - all things digital. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches touching the digital sphere.