There’s concern people in rural areas might miss out on getting vaccinated against COVID-19 because of the ultra-cold storage needs of a promising vaccine candidate.
However, a D.C. expert is skeptical about the degree to which it could be an issue.
It is true some hospitals and health systems may be unable to accommodate a product with storage requirements of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 F), but long-term storage might not be needed, according to D.C. Department of Health Senior Deputy Director of Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Patrick Ashley.
“My personal opinion here is that the requirement for ultra-cold has been a little bit blown out of proportion,” Ashley said.
Ashley briefed the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments board about vaccines on Thursday.
He detailed a number of reasons that ultra-cold storage needs may be less of an issue than people think.
“Pfizer is shipping it with boxes that keep the vaccine cold for up to 15 days and can be re-supplied with dried ice,” he said.
Also, once the vaccine is defrosted and reconstituted for injection into bodies, it doesn’t have to be used immediately.
“It’s not a substantial window, but it is longer than a day where the vaccine can actually stay at refrigerated temperatures while it’s being administered to individuals,” Ashley said. “It’s not as if it has to go immediately from being ultra-cold — negative 70 degrees — into your body.”
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