Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery would be a “logistic nightmare”

Long wait for a vaccine that can finally be finished Coronavirus epidemic Appears to be on the horizon. Last week, Pfizer said it had been vaccinated in a test 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, While Modern made a similar announcement on Monday Encouraging results. Companies can get emergency federal approval within weeks. Yet it will be only after drug manufacturers ship millions of doses around the world that a real-time shortage begins on the vaccination effort.

The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at approximately zero to 100 degrees F to be effective. At the South Pole it is about 20 degrees colder than the extreme winter temperatures. Initially, experts warned that the US lacked the ultra-cold storage trucks and cargo planes needed to hold hundreds-of-millions of doses at sub-sub-zero temperatures.

To get around, Pfizer has specifically constructed deep-freeze “suitcases”, which can be tightly sealed and also shipped in non-refrigerated trucks. But while Pfizer may have solved the problem of how to ship frozen vaccines, these highly engineered shipping containers pose other problems, particularly to hospitals, pharmacies, and outpatient clinics that require hundreds of Americans to be vaccinated. Have to manage.

“The reality is that a drug is never needed at this temperature,” said Soumi Saha, pharmacist and director of advocacy at the premiere. “The administration and delivery effort will require all hands on deck.”

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Among the many logistical and medical challenges described by experts, they need to be overcome when vaccines are ready to roll:

  • Pfizer’s shipping boxes, packed with specially prepared dry ice and packed with between 1,000 and 5,000 vaccine doses each, only twice a day for less than three minutes at a time, while maintaining temperature standards Can be opened.
  • Nevertheless, the deep-freeze suitcase keeps its cool for only 10 days. And when they are sealed, the clock starts ticking, which will be for American shipments at one of two Pfizer facilities in Kalamazoo, Michigan, or Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
  • Dry ice is considered a hazardous material and is prohibited on airplanes. Pfizer said its packages are well under acceptable limits. But given the logistical challenges, Premier Saha told CBS MoneyWatch that the vaccines may take four days to reach their destination. Many hospitals and pharmacies only give 5,000 doses up to 5,000 days before they go bad or as 833 a day. Vaccination can be transferred to a specific refrigerator, but only for five days.
  • Pfizer’s shipping containers can be filled with dry ice. But it is likely that the pellets should not contain blocks, and a refill, which can cost a few hundred dollars, will only extend the life of the deep freeze suitcase by five days.
  • Hospitals can purchase ultra-cold freezers, which will hold vaccinations for up to six months. But some hospitals or pharmacies have specialty freezers, which can cost as much as $ 20,000 each, and are in short supply. Producer K2 told CBS MoneyWatch that the wait for its ultra-cold freezer is now six weeks.
  • Vaccination of Pfizer requires two doses in addition to 21 days, making it more complicated to treat the required number of treatments for waste.

The modern vaccine should also be shipped frozen, although at a comparatively low friction — 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, the company will need to secure hundreds of refrigerated trucks, while the vaccine can only be stored in a standard refrigerator for up to seven days.

Pfizer has designed a specialty box that can keep 1,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine at around 100 degrees below zero for 10 days.


Pfizer declined to provide information about plans to distribute its vaccines. While the government is technically in charge of the overall vaccination effort, the company has opted to distribute its vaccine. Pfizer has received $ 1.95 billion from Operation Tana Speed ​​to produce and distribute the first 100 million doses. The government will be responsible for distributing syringes and other medical supplies necessary for the vaccination effort.

In a statement for CBS MoneyWatch, a spokesman for Pfizer said the pharmaceutical giant had “developed detailed logistic plans and tools for effective vaccine transport, storage, and constant temperature monitoring.”

Emily Gerbers, director of business development at MDLogistics, which specializes in cold-storage supply chains, said that it is not only vaccines that have to be shipped, but also COVID-19 treatments and antibodies. He said that the epidemic supply chain is growing and getting replenished, but it is difficult for companies like him to meet the demand.

“We’re talking to people every day looking for solutions,” Gerbers said. “COVID services are much needed. You can’t build it very fast.”

There is another possibility for vaccines to be stored in centralized deep-freeze warehouses before being transported to hospitals. But real estate brokerage firm JLL said cold storage facilities make up less than 2% of the overall logistics warehouse market, and the space has been a problem since lately, with little investment in the market. The vacancy rate for existing cold storage facilities is less than 5%.

Mehtab Randhawa, a researcher at JLL, said, “The epidemic outstripped supply demand for the cold supply network.” “Pfizer’s vaccine requires a very specific cold storage that may not align out there.”

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Premier Saha said hospitals still lacked some basic information from Pfizer about shipping containers, such as its exact dimensions. Hospitals are not yet informed whether they will serve as distribution points. Many are awaiting such notice to decide whether to invest in ultra-cold freezers for mass vaccination.

Saha said that many university hospitals have ultra-cold freezers, but they are usually in their laboratories and will have to seek permission from local health inspectors for vaccination. And while the government has said that it will cover the costs of the vaccine, it is unclear whether hospitals and other providers will be reimbursed the additional costs required to store and deliver the vaccines quickly.

Already struggling rural hospitals may not have the funds to bear the additional costs, or it is possible to serve a large enough population to deliver 1,000 doses for 10 days a week, especially before the vaccination effort. In the phase when not everyone will be eligible.

“It’s a nightmare for rural communities,” Saha said. “But no one is immune to the challenges that deliver vaccine poses for the medical industry.”

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