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Securing the Cold Chain for a COVID-19 Vaccine

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 11/18/2020 - 17:32

More positive news regarding a COVID-19 vaccine keep coming our way. Last week, Pfizer and the Gamaleya Institute announced that their vaccines where over 90 percent effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection. Pfizer’s vaccine, which is concluding Phase 3 of clinical trials, is reportedly 95 percent effective. Also, a treatment to prevent hospitalization due to complications from COVID-19 was announced. Now, Moderna reported that its vaccine is 94.5 percent effective in protecting people from COVID-19 infection.

Mexico has agreements with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and CanSino Biologics to be among the first countries to receive a COVID-19 vaccine once developed. CanSino Biologics is currently carrying out Phase 3 clinical trials in Aguascalientes, Mexico City, Coahuila, Durango, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Michoacan and Quintana Roo.

While these are encouraging news, there are still hurdles to overcome before securing access to these developments. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, stated that securing a cold chain for the correct distribution of the vaccine would be a challenge. He also said that Pfizer offered a solution to help transport and store its vaccine. Pfizer proposes to store the vaccines at the distribution points that Mexico chooses, from where they will be transported using the country’s cold chain systems. Ebrard said the Ministry of Health already evaluated Mexico’s logistics capacity, which is sufficient and qualified for the task. Otherwise, “Mexico would not have signed the contract with Pfizer.”

In Mexico, the health industry often faces trouble finding employees who are trained in regulation of cold chain logistics, said Fausto Hernández from ValidPro to Mexico Health Review. “If the logistics provider, including the driver, is not fully trained on the cold chain, there is a risk that some products will be damaged. The lack of training also impacts the final consumer,” said Hernández. “The lack of training could be catastrophic for all people involved.”

Pfizer’s vaccine, for example, must be stored between -70°C and -80°C for up to 6 months or in specially designed shipping containers (“dry ice packs”) for a maximum of 10 days. Once taken out of the containers, the vaccine can be kept unfrozen for one day at 2°C to 8°C or for a maximum of 2 hours at room temperature. Sanofi and GSK’s vaccines share the same temperature requirements, while Sputnik V and Moderna’s require storage between -18° C and -20° C.

Securing the vaccine’s delivery will not be easy. Two-thirds of the global population are unlikely to have access to any COVID-19 vaccine that requires freezing storage temperatures, according to DHL. The logistics company and consultancy firm McKinsey, reportedly found insufficient last mile cooling facilities for the successful delivery of a vaccine. According to their findings, Africa, Asia and South America would be the most affected by this.

To read more about the importance of cold chains for vaccine supply, head to the following article:

Perfect Vaccine Delivery Through Safe Cold Chains

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Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst