The COVID-19 vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech now has less stringent and extreme transportation requirements than when it was first approved.
Originally, the mRNA-based vaccine had to be maintained at extremely-low temperatures, between -76°F and -112°F, throughout the transportation chain in order to remain usable.
But new stability data collected by Pfizer and BioNTech, which has been submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for review, allow it to be stored at temperatures between 5°F and -13°F. The good news is that this range of cooling is widely available in standard medical freezers found in most clinics and care facilities.
The vaccine should remain stable for up to two weeks at this temperature range, which vastly improves the flexibility of its options for transportation and storage before administering to patients. Till date, the vaccine has relied largely on existing “cold-chain” infrastructure to be able to reach the areas where it’s being used to inoculate patients.
Temperature has not been a limitation for Moderna’s vaccine, again from the US, which is stable at even higher, standard refrigerator temperatures for up to a month.
The latest development is just one example of how work continues on the vaccines that are already being deployed under emergency approvals by health regulators across the US and elsewhere in the world. Pfizer and BioNTech say they’re working on bringing those storage temperature requirements down even further, so they could potentially approach the standard set by Moderna’s shot.
More participation in transport and storage
The new temperature range opens the door for participation from a range of startups and smaller companies in both the logistics and the care delivery space that don’t have the scale or the specialized equipment to be able to offer extreme “cold-chain” storage.
The high temperature has been an obstacle for some who have been looking for ways to assist, but lacked the necessary hardware and expertise to do so effectively.
Recently, study results from Israeli researchers found that just one shot of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be as high as 85 percent effective on its own, marking a major development for global inoculation programs.