RIDOH: State continuing to prepare to meet vaccine cold storage requirements

Pfizer’s vaccine, if approved, would need to be transported and stored at -70ۜ°C (-94°F). The requirements for a potential Moderna vaccine aren’t as restrictive.

By: Tim Studebaker

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island Department of Health has been planning for a potential vaccine since the very start of the pandemic.

Tricia Washburn, the Chief of the Department of Health’s Center for Preventive Services says, “We immediately started thinking about ‘okay what do we need to do to prepare for this?’”

Part of that planning process has been addressing strict temperature requirements during vaccine transport and storage.

Pfizer’s vaccine candidate is furthest along in the authorization process, but poses the biggest logistical challenge.

Washburn says, “The Pfizer vaccine will come in a thermal shipper.  It’s packed in dry ice and stored at a temperature of -70°[C, equal to -94°F]”

She says the vaccine can be stored in that thermal shipper for up to 15 days, but only if the dry ice is replenished.  It can also be moved to an ultra low cold freezer for up to 6 months.

Washburn says, “If you don’t have an ultra low cold freezer at your facility, and you take the vaccine out of the shipper and put it in the refrigerator, it’s good for five days.”

Washburn says the state is working on purchasing those ultra low cold freezers, but as a backup, hospitals and universities that already have the special freezers have offered up their storage space.

Moderna’s vaccine candidate isn’t quite as far along in the approval process, but Washburn says it would be more manageable from a logistical standpoint.

Washburn says, “It comes frozen, so a regular freezer temperature like -25°C [-13°F], your standard freezer.  It can go into the refrigerator and it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.”

The state is working with healthcare providers to make sure they’re as prepared as they can be for any vaccine that comes along.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island