Storing COVID-19 vaccines in Alabama

Pfizer vaccine shortage concerns

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - This week Pfizer Pharmaceuticals announced they may have an effective vaccine against COVID-19 by the end of the year. But, storage of that vaccine won’t be easy.

Pfizer’s vaccine will require it to be stored at -80 celsius. That is very cold and not a lot of places will be able to pull that off. Some hospitals can handle it and there is a plan to help others.

When Pfizer made its announcement Monday there was a great deal of optimism from the Medical community, even though more testing will be needed. The head of the Alabama Hospital Association says storage of that vaccine won’t be easy.

“This vaccine has to be stored at -70 or -80 degrees centigrade. There are not a lot of institutions outside of research institutions that can store it at -80 degrees centigrade,” Williamson said.

A UAB doctor who heads the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic said storage would not be easy, but it can be done. “Fortunately most major academic institutions and major medical centers they do have that storage capacity,” Dr. Paul Goepfert said.

Williamson said he has spoken with public health officials and others about a plan help out small hospitals and other locations across the state. There are going to be containment devices packed with dry ice for the vaccine.

"Then the challenge is going to be to find enough dry ice to keep it at minus 80 degrees,” Williamson said.

Dr. Geopfert said the federal government will have to provide help. “Vaccinating the healthcare workers will be easier but going beyond that it will take dollars to make that happen,” Goepfert said.

The CDC has put out guidelines for a cold chain of custody to maintain the integrity of any vaccine once it’s produced.

UAB and St. Vincent’s Medical Center said they will be able to store the vaccine.

Williamson added giving the vaccine will be tricky. It has to be done quickly once the vaccine is ready and there have to be two shots

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