The healthcare industry and especially the NHS has had a challenging year but with the COVID-19 vaccine roll out in full swing, the end is in sight. So how do we ensure the vaccine is transported, stored and administered effectively?
Here’s what we know:
The Covid vaccine created by Pfizer-BioNTech has shown great potential in cutting cases in 95% of Covid recipients.
The UK have purchased 40 Million doses, enough for 20 million people as the vaccine requires 2 doses around 3 weeks apart and will be fully effective 7 days after the second dosage is administered.
Logistically, vaccine distribution is a challenge. Pfizeri-BioNTech’s Covid vaccine must be stored at Ultra low temperatures (ULT) of -70 degrees Celsius. Therefore their entire cold chain must be strictly assessed and monitored throughout.
In light of this, Pfizer have created an innovative temperature controlled thermal shipper roughly the size of a suitcase, which they pack with dry ice to ensure the ultra-low temperatures necessary. The vials of vaccine are stored within the thermal shipper which are then shipped globally.
Pfizer claim that by regularly replenishing the dry Ice the vaccine can be stored up to 30 days. Each shipper contains a GPS enabled thermal sensor to track the location and temperature of the vials in transit.
Pfizer president Angela Hwang states “we are confident about our ability to safely and effectively deliver the vaccine” and goes on to state their 'Just In Time' production process will minimise any long term storage situations.
What happens once we receive the vaccines?
Once the thermal shipper containing the vaccines is received, the healthcare organisation have three options for storage:
1. Use Ultra-low-temperature freezers, to store the vaccine for up to 6 months.
2. Use Pfizer’s thermal shippers as temporary storage units, by replenishing the dry ice for up to 15 days of storage.
3. Store the vaccines within refrigeration units. Here the vaccines can be stored for up to five days at refrigerated 2-8°C conditions.
Once the vaccine has been thawed and stored under 2-8°C conditions, the vials cannot then be re-frozen or stored under frozen conditions. The various storage options at the point of use could be a challenging logistical exercise however the options for storage available allow the Pfizer vaccine to be used within organisations with differing infrastructures.
How important is temperature control?
Controlling the temperature of these vaccines is crucial. The vaccine is based on messenger RNA or mRNA which means it carries instructions to generate the coronavirus spike protein needed to fight off the virus.
Should the temperature of these drugs break their thresholds it will most likely result in the breakdown of the vaccine and ultimately become useless at fighting off any effects. Therefore the storage and distribution network for the vaccine is paramount to avoid unnecessary expenditure.
What is the answer?
Vaccine monitoring systems allows healthcare organisations to monitor all their cold storage units 24/7, using data loggers, while providing key insight into the temperature performance of your drugs.
Cloud based solutions like Logicall Enterprise will provide Real-time data to ensure the safe keeping of the vaccine. Should any cold storage unit, including any ultra-low temperature freezer, break its temperature threshold the necessary member of the organisation will receive live alerts detailing the exact location, time and nature of the breach.
All your essential data is easily accessible through any web enabled device and historical data is readily available for reports and analysis.
In these uncertain times monitoring vaccine storage temperatures and rigorous pharmacovigilance will be the key to ensuring a prosperous and Covid free future for the United Kingdom.