Health providers preparing for cold storage of COVID vaccine

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 7:11 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It’s a big development as Pfizer plans to ask the FDA for emergency use authorization next week for its anticipated COVID-19 vaccine. Area hospitals and Kentucky companies are preparing.

One of the biggest challenges is finding the cold storage necessary to ensure the vaccine is effective.

For the Pfizer vaccine, that’s 70 degrees below zero. The company is setting up a cold storage supply chain.

Companies across the world and those right here in Louisville are lining up to help keep it safe.

While UPS officials are tight lipped about the freezer farm at its Louisville hub, they have shown us images of the farm.

The company was also able to tell us through statement, “We have visibility into the needs and demands regarding vaccines and testing and are preparing our network to help deliver in support of urgent, lifesaving operations.”

While lots of hospitals and health care organizations aren’t yet ready for that kind of freezer storage, many are getting there.

“Luckily we’ve known about this for a little while now,” Dr. Jason Smith, Chief Medical Officer for UofL Health said. “We actually bought extra freezers to have this. I know other health care organizations across the city and state have done similar or will be doing similar in the short term.”

Smith said if another top vaccine comes through with different requirements it may become easier for storage.

“What we understand one is minus 70, which would require a minus 80 freezer. The other is a minus 20, so that’s what makes it a little more interesting. We don’t quite know yet, which one to expect and what quantities to expect for each one, so we are kind of preparing for everything. I think if we’ve got those freezers in place, we’ll do a better job of being able to handle whatever comes down the road for us.”

The tricky part for the Pfizer vaccine storage? It’s two separate shots taken 21 days apart.

“It will be very, very important that you actually show up and get that vaccine,” Smith explained, “otherwise it will be wasted.”

Even with all the cold challenges, health care leaders are encouraged by all those organizations taking part to get the vaccine out.

Smith said, “I believe we have enough pieces in place to begin to deploy this and pull this off.”

Ultimately, doctors stress they have confidence in the safety of the vaccines and the trials they’ve gone through and they encourage the public to take it.

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