The Big COVID-19 Vaccine Challenge Is Keeping Them Super-Cold

The Big COVID-19 Vaccine Challenge Is Keeping Them Super-Cold

By Anna Nagurney, The Conversation

Just like a fresh piece of fish, vaccines are highly perishable products and must be kept at very cold, specific temperatures. The majority of COVID-19 vaccines under development—like the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines—are new RNA-based vaccines. If they get too warm or too cold they spoil. And, just like fish, a spoiled vaccine must be thrown away.

So how do companies and public health agencies get vaccines to the people who need them?

The answer is something called the vaccine cold chain: a supply chain that can keep vaccines in tightly controlled temperatures from the moment they are made to the moment that they are administered to a person.

Ultimately, hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and billions globally are going to need a coronavirus vaccine—and potentially two doses of it. This mass vaccination effort is going to require a complex vaccine cold chain on a scale like never before. The current vaccine cold chain is not up to the task, and expanding the supply chain is not going to be easy.

Most vaccines need to be stored within 1 degree Fahrenheit of their ideal temperature. Traditional vaccines are usually stored between 35 degrees Fahrenheit and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, but some of the leading COVID-19 vaccines need to be stored at much colder temperatures. Moderna’s vaccine requires a storage temperature of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas Pfizer’s vaccine candidate requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. These are not easy temperatures to maintain accurately.

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