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The Covid Vaccine Cold Chain Challenge

December 14th , 2020 by

The recently approved Pfizer BioNTech Covid 19 vaccine is now being rolled out, and the NHS has so far designated some 50 NHS Trusts as vaccination hubs to pioneer the vaccination programme.

However, this essential lifeline in the fight against the virus has very strict temperature requirements to ensure it will both work fully and is safe for use. The vaccine, which studies show is up to 95% effective, needs to be stored at -70C to prevent it from degrading, because it is made using genetic material. Although this has been used in vaccine manufacture before, the technique has not previously been deployed on such a large scale.

The vaccine has therefore presented quite a cold chain challenge, as it needs to be transported in carefully controlled deep-freeze conditions. Pfizer BioNTech have developed a system for delivery using ultra-cold thermal boxes, each of which can hold almost 5,000 doses. The boxes are fitted with GPS temperature monitoring devices which constantly report temperature information back to Pfizer. The boxes are being transported by plane or lorry from the manufacturing plant in Belgium to the UK for distribution to vaccination hubs.

Once in the UK, following quality and temperature checks, the vaccine can be stored for up to six months in an ultra-low temperature freezer. Before use, it must be defrosted and the contents of each vial diluted in saline. The vaccine then needs to be administered to patients within just six hours of dilution.

In his guidance to NHS Pharmacists issued earlier this month, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, Dr Keith Ridge CBE says:

“Use of vaccines that have deviated from recommended storage or transportation conditions risks compromising vaccine efficacy and patient safety. Vaccines that have not been transported or stored correctly may be ineffective or harmful; they would therefore no longer be within the terms of their product authorisation and must not be used. Means of detecting when a temperature excursion has occurred are required.”

Temperature is therefore key to the safe storage and usage of this game -changing vaccine, and Monika is proud to have been protecting medicines and vaccines for the NHS over many years. Using our discrete sensors, we can continually monitor ultra low temperature freezers and fridges to tight temperature limits, as well as ambient rooms and heat inactivation incubators. The system sends alerts when equipment moves out of safe temperature range so stock can be saved. Find out more here or contact UK Director of Sales Rag Hulait on 07879 884655 or email: rhulait@monika.com.