Now that Covid vaccines are finally being approved, governments are attempting to prepare for the distribution of a chosen vaccine to their citizens. Unfortunately, it turns out that before any vaccine can be used widely, countries will need to address issues with infrastructure and other resources.
The biggest challenge right now is storage, because of the low temperatures that are required to keep the vaccines safe and active. The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, coming in with a greater than 90% efficacy rate, must be stored at -70C, or -94F.
There are hundreds of large freezers waiting in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Puurs, Belgium specifically for the purpose of storing the new vaccine. Health care workers will likely be first to receive the new vaccine, followed by other vulnerable groups. It will take several months to distribute the vaccine to everyone who needs it in the countries that already have it.
Around the world, poorer countries do not have the advantage of all the same resources. Those countries that do have the ability to help have a duty to help others, especially those in South America, Asia, and some parts of Africa. Especially in rural villages, there may not even be access to basic vaccine fridges.
The sheer number of necessary vaccines makes the project seem overwhelming. Pfizer plans to release 50 million doses in 2020 and over 1 billion doses in 2021. The vaccines will be transported in storage boxes that can hold 1,000 to 5,000 doses and packed with dry ice to keep them cold.
Pfizer will be able to ship the vaccines faster by using the boxes, which can keep the vaccines at the necessary temperature for 10 days. They will also be tracking all the shipments by GPS and working with shipping companies like FedEx, UPS, and DHL to create more cold facilities.
While it is good news that there are Covid vaccines that have made it through safety testing, it is too early to celebrate the end of the pandemic. Countries around the world will need to deal with storage and distribution issues for some time and to make it worse, vocal groups on social media have worked hard to create distrust in any vaccines that are developed.