by Michelle Taylor
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most people outside the scientific community hadn’t heard of mRNA vaccines or ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers. Fast forward to October 2020, and everyone from your neighbor to mainstream media is talking about how the first potential COVID-19 mRNA vaccine from Pfizer needs to be kept at in an ULT freezer at -80˚C.
When Pfizer’s vaccine was first approved for Emergency Use Authorization, it needed to be kept at -70˚C to -80˚C, a temperature only offered by ULT freezers. Anticipating that most facilities were not equipped with such infrastructure, the pharmaceutical giant designed suitcase-sized, temperature-controlled shipping packages that used dry ice to keep the vaccine vials at -75˚C for 10 days.
However, as of Feb. 25, 2021, Pfizer was approved to store the BNT162b2 vaccine between -25°C and -15°C, a common temperature that almost all facilities can accommodate. Still, the conservation about the first-available COVID-19 vaccine and its cold chain requirements thrust ULT freezers into a spotlight they don’t ordinarily enjoy.
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