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The complication of Pfizer’s Vaccine Distribution’s Plan

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

Even though Pfizer announcing the development of safe and effective vaccine is cause for celebration, scientists and public experts face  the challenge of how to quickly make millions of doses of the vaccine and getting them to hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. But Pfizer distribution of vaccines rely on a network of companies, federal and state agencies and on the ground health workers in the midst of a pandemic that is spreading at a high rate in United States.

Before Pfizer can begin shipping its vaccine, federal and state governments must inform Pfizer of how many doses are needed along with syringes, needles and other supplies needed to administer the vaccine. In addition, employees at the locations should be trained to store and administer the vaccine and to ensure that after people are vaccinated, they return for a second dose.

The complication of Pfizer’s vaccine is that it has to be stored at minus 70 degree Celsius until before it is injected.  Pfizer is making the vaccine at facilities in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Puurs, Belgium. The doses distributed in the United States will mostly come from Kalamazoo. When they receive emergency authorization from FDA, Pfizer will send limited doses to large hospitals, pharmacies and other vulnerable groups. At the same time, nine other candidates are also in the final stage of testing.

In Kalamazoo, vaccines will go into vials, vi will go into trays (195 vials per tray) and the trays will go into specially designed cooler-type boxes (up to five trays per box).The reusable boxes, each toting between 1,000 and 5,000 doses and stuffed with dry ice, are equipped with GPS-enabled sensors. Pfizer employees will be able to monitor the boxes’ locations and temperatures as FedEx and UPS transport them to hospitals and clinics nationwide.

The minute Pfizer coolers reach their destinations, hospitals or pharmacies will have a few alternatives of  how to store the vaccine. The easiest option is using ultracold freezers, but they can stash the trays in conventional freezers for up to five days. The destinations can keep the vials in the cooler for up to 15 days as long as they replenish the dry ice and don’t open it more than twice a day.

The chief executives at Pfizer and BioNTech suggest that Pfizer is able to produce up to 50 million doses per year and only half of those will go to US. But since two doses are needed for each person, only 12.5 million doses can be vaccinated.

The other challenge is distributing the vaccine in rural areas, where if not administering the doses fast enough it can go bad. Even though Pfizer has developed and tested an effective vaccine, figuring out how to distribute it is the hardest challenge Pfizer will face.

SOURCE

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