Owing to the hefty cold chain requirements for vaccine storage, Pfizer is developing options to roll out its COVID vaccine in powder format which may be available next year, reports said.
The company had recently announced interim data of its coronavirus vaccine candidate BNT162b2 claiming more than 90 percent efficacy to prevent the infection.
The powder format will be available as a second-generation version of the COVID-19 vaccine which may only require refrigeration, according to Pfizer’s chief scientist, Mikael Dolsten to a source. The first-generation form however, must be stored frozen at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, executives have said.
In its quest to deploy 100 million doses of its vaccine globally by year-end, Pfizer has outlined its own distribution effort focused on sites in Michigan and Belgium, which leverages GPS-monitored shipping containers able to keep shots at the required temperature for 10 days. The company has also queued up additional storage sites in Wisconsin and Germany. But the costs and logistics of such a plan add up fast and vaccine experts have warned that storage requirements for Pfizer’s shot could hinder access to countries other than the developed ones.
With the new mRNA platform behind Pfizer’s vaccine, many countries will face the question of whether to establish previously unneeded deep-freeze production and transportation networks or wait for a vaccine based on an established technology. The shots from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson, could utilize existing infrastructure.
“[The shot’s] production is costly, its component is unstable, it also requires cold-chain transportation and has a short shelf life,” director of the Beijing-based Global Health Drug Discovery Institute, Ding Sheng, told BNN Bloomberg.
In China, Shanghai Fosun has teamed up with the state-owned Sinopharm to ship Pfizer’s shot in cold storage trucks to vaccination sites around the country, where the shots will need to be used within five days, lest they spoil.
Meanwhile, developing nations like India are split on how, or whether it’s even possible, to fulfill the Pfizer vaccine’s frigid shipping requirements.
The country’s current cold chains struggle to keep up with certain regions’ need for measles vaccines, which are only required for those below the age of three—”a really trivial number of people compared to the numbers that will need a COVID-19 vaccine,” T. Sundararaman, a global coordinator of the public health organization, The People’s Health Movement, told BNN.