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Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine needs storage colder than Mars

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

If US drug giant Pfizer gets its vaccine approved, Australia’s 10 million doses will be sent in special suitcase-sized containers cooled at sub-zero temperatures of -70C.

With two coronavirus vaccines tracking successfully, attention is turning to the monumental task of distributing the vaccine to Australia and the world.

If US drug giant Pfizer gets its vaccine approved, Australia's 10 million doses will be sent in special suitcase-sized containers cooled at sub-zero temperatures of -70C.

Each temperature-controlled container will be embedded with GPS trackers, for security, and will be capable of holding several thousand doses of the prized vaccine.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer  announced positive early results on its Covid-19 vaccine trial, which has proven to be 90 per cent effective in preventing infection of the virus.

Shunning all government financial assistance, Pfizer has gone it alone and is believed to have poured a massive $2.7 billion into the vaccine so far.

That eye-watering sum includes buying up raw ingredients needed for the vaccine, which is still to be approved, and the building of huge "freezer farms" to store the vaccines, ready for global distribution.

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Requiring storage at -70C presents a huge challenge.

Many hospitals don't have storage facilities capable of dropping temperatures colder than those found on the planet Mars (average daily temperatures of -62C)

Such freezers were "like unicorns", a US-based healthcare consultant Soumi Saha said.

"They are very hard to find," Ms Saha, whose company Premier Inc consults to pharmacies, told US news broadcaster ABC.

"(It's) the coldest that any vaccine or any drug has ever been required to be stored at."

DNL branded dry ice slabs are seen at the Dry Ice Nationwide manufacturing facility in Reading, England. Producing dry ice in a number of forms, the company provides both coarse pellets and slabs for use in temperature-controlled pharmaceutical logistics, pathological environments and chemical laboratories.

The GPS systems built into the containers will help Pfizer monitor temperatures and also ward off criminals who could be hoping to steal vaccines.

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Australia has paid Pfizer for 10 million doses, if its vaccine turns out to be successful. The pharma giant will send 200 million to the EU, 100 million doses to the US and 40 million to the UK.

Earlier this month Pfizer reported it had achieved a 90 per cent effectiveness rate during late-stage clinical trials.

It is now moving into stage 3 trials and will give the vaccine to some of a sample group numbering 44,000 people.

Some of those people will be given the vaccine, others a placebo.

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Pfizer will then monitor what happens when the group goes out into the world.

When participants show symptoms of COVID-19, scientists will check if they were given a vaccine or a placebo.

That data will allow Pfizer to understand whether its vaccine works, and at what level.

It is possible Pfizer will have enough safety data to apply for emergency approval from US government agency, the Food and Drug Administration, next week.

The covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures in its journey from the production line to a patient's arm. To address this challenge, Pfizer developed a suitcase-sized box that uses dry ice to keep between 1,000 and 5,000 doses for 10 days at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

However, there is an impact of expediting the approval process.

There will be no data to show how long an approved vaccine will offer protection.

And scientists will have no real information over any potential long-term side effects.

Yesterday a second experimental COVID-19 vaccine — from Moderna Inc — yielded extraordinarily strong early results.

Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5 per cent effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study.

The phase 3 stage of the Moderna trial will involve 30,000 participants.

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Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, given several weeks apart.

Moderna's vaccine does not appear to be as temperature-sensitive as its competitor, Pfizer.

The Moderna vaccine starts off frozen, but the company said it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days.

With Associated Press


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Source: 9News

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