Filling and packaging tests for the large-scale manufacture and delivery of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate are pictured in Anagni, Italy in September 2020
The United States could be the first country to launch one of the most ambitious vaccination operations in history: distributing and administering up to 600 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in just a few months.
Massive vaccination campaigns are nothing new – they have, for example, been carried out for decades in the fight against measles and flu.
However, eradicating the coronavirus is a distinctly new challenge due to three factors: the short timeframe for vaccinating large numbers of people, the fact that most vaccines require two doses, and the very low temperature some of the vaccines are at need stored.
The vaccine developed by the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the German BioNTech, which is the first to be approved in the USA, has to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, while the flu vaccine in a normal refrigerator.
Pfizer vaccines sold in the US will come from its largest manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Your shipment will include a precise, clockwork dance of containers, trucks and planes.
Thermal shipping containers are each filled with dry ice and 975 vials of the vaccine, each containing five doses for a total of 4,875 doses.
Every day, six trucks will route the cans to carriers like FedEx, UPS or DHL, who will have them shipped to the US in a day or two and worldwide in three days, Pfizer told AFP.
The company expects an average of 20 daily cargo flights worldwide.
FedEx and other delivery services will ship the vaccines to the US and around the world
FedEx had to get special permission from civil aviation authorities to move so much dry ice, which could pose a threat to the crew if it were accidentally “sublimated” and turned from a solid to a gas, the company said to AFP.
Once the boxes have reached their final destination, they can only be opened briefly twice a day.
“To run a large mass vaccination clinic, that’s fine,” said Julie Swann, a pandemic response expert at North Carolina State University.
However, the vaccine is not suitable for distribution in medical practices or pharmacies that are too small, she warned.
At least in the beginning, Americans need to go to hospitals or maybe even large distribution centers set up in parking lots, similar to COVID test sites, she said.
The vaccines can stay in their boxes for two weeks, so hospitals don’t need a dedicated freezer.
“We don’t currently recommend that hospitals or clinics buy ultra-cold equipment,” said Janell Routh of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An H1N1 vaccine center is pictured in Washington in January 2010
Poor countries later
US biotech giant Moderna also makes a vaccine that can be stored at -4 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a normal freezer.
The US government is organizing a free distribution of this vaccine to US states and territories, with each jurisdiction deciding how to distribute the doses to hospitals, pharmacies, doctors, or even universities and businesses, in a decentralized system similar to that what was used in 2009 for the H1N1 flu pandemic.
“With very few exceptions, the federal government has no intention of touching a single dose of vaccine before it gets into Americans’ arms,” Paul Mango, an Operation Warp Speed official, said during a briefing.
The goal is to offer vaccines to the most vulnerable populations by the end of December, health workers by the end of January, and all Americans by early April.
Pfizer expects production of 50 million cans this year and 1.3 billion in 2021: The US has already ordered 100 million cans, of which 20 to 30 million are for delivery before the end of December. The European Union has now ordered 200 million, Japan 120 million, Great Britain 30 million and Canada 20 million.
Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and others hope that their own vaccines will also prove safe and effective, and that their global rollout will follow.
Carrier DHL estimates that 15 million cool boxes will have to be delivered over the next two years, with around 15,000 flights required worldwide.
In poorer countries that lack storage capacity for large quantities of vaccines that require super-cold storage, there is little hope of benefiting from the first doses, said Prashant Yadav, an expert on global health supply chains at the Center for Global Development.
Ultra-cold freezers, which can reach temperatures as low as -112 degrees Fahrenheit, cost five times more than standard freezers and are only made to order, he said.
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Quote: Airplanes, dry ice, pharmacies: The logistical challenges of COVID-19 vaccines (2020, November 11th) were discovered on November 11th, 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-11-planes-ice-pharmacies- logistical-covid retrieved -.html
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