U.S. States, Hospitals Rush to Buy Vaccine Freezers

Following news of initial results showing that the vaccine developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech 22UAy.F was more than 90% effective, U.S. states, cities, and hospitals are racing to buy equipment to safely store COVID-19 vaccines.

Typically, vaccines are stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, but Pfizer’s vaccine candidate needs to be stored at –70 degrees Celsius. The rush to buy specialized freezers, which can cost $5,000 to $15,000, suggests many hospitals lack the infrastructure and equipment capable of maintaining these required low temperatures.

On August 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged hospitals and health care providers not to purchase ultra-low temperature freezers. A CDC spokeswoman told Reuters that the first vaccine doses will be rapidly deployed in limited quantities, reducing the need to store them in specialized freezers. Several states, including California, Rhode Island, and New Mexico, said they expect to face challenges related to limited supplies of the freezers. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has called for federal funding to assist with vaccine storage.

Pfizer’s vaccine, which could be authorized by the FDA within weeks, would be distributed almost immediately, transported in containers filled with dry ice that last 2 weeks and can only be opened twice a day.

Source: Reuters, November 13, 2020.