TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The potential coronavirus vaccine from drug maker Pfizer could be available to some in the coming weeks. But the promising results come with a lot of work, including how cold the vaccine must be kept.
Here in Pima County, health officials are figuring out how they’ll not only store it when it arrives, but transport it while keeping it viable.
“A little bit of shock set in when we first got the logistics of how this is supposed to work,” said Louie Valenzuela, the Division Manager and Emergency Preparedness Manager at the Pima County Health Department. “This is a new vaccine. This is something the healthcare system hasn’t dealt with in the past.”
Division Manager Louie Valenzuela says the Pfizer vaccine is unlike any they’ve seen before, mainly because it’s the only vaccine that needs to be stored in -94 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It’s really—it’s difficult to manage because the vaccine is so fragile, so moving it from point A to point B is all associated with a very careful monitoring of its temperature," said Valenzuela.
To keep it that cold, PCHD will be using dry ice along with warehouse and cooler spaces that can go that low. Valenzuela said getting their hands on large quantities of dry ice will take some planning as well.
“We got to be really strategic about it. So, when we know we have a clinic from 10 to 12 on a certain day, do we have enough dry ice capacity to deliver it out, are coolers going to be in use elsewhere? It’s just takes a lot of back and forth and preplanning," said Valenzuela.
At first, the vaccine will only go to health care workers and those at high risk. Dr. Cara Christ of Arizona Department of Health Services said they’re also working with their testing partners to get the vaccine out to smaller towns.
“They have been moving out to our rural areas in order to insure one we have testing access as well as vaccination coverage," said Christ.
Other promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates are nearing the end of phase III trials, and they won’t all need sub-zero storage.
They will, however, all need huge logistical support to make it to all the corners of the world.