One could hear an enormous sigh of relief after Pfizer and BioNTech announced successful interim data about the efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccine. Almost immediately, work began on distributing their experimental vaccine but it won’t be anytime soon when the vaccine becomes available to local pharmacies and the general public.
When Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, US stock markets rose to a record high. However, the company is still awaiting data on the safety of the use of the vaccine which will hopefully arrive later this month.
Once Pfizer and BioNTech get sign-offs from respective regulatory bodies and start shipping the vaccines, they’ll go to those most in need of it like healthcare workers and elderly people who are more likely to die due to the novel coronavirus.
However, Reuters reports that the vaccine needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 F) or below.
“The cold chain is going to be one of the most challenging aspects of delivery of this vaccination,” said Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“This will be a challenge in all settings because hospitals even in big cities do not have storage facilities for a vaccine at that ultra-low temperature.”
Most prestigious hospitals even in the US do not have this capability currently.
“We’re talking about a vaccine that needs storage at minus 70 or 80. That’s a tremendous logistical issue not only in the U.S. but outside the Western world,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic to Reuters.
In other news
According to media reports, Anganwadi centres, schools, and panchayat buildings will be used as vaccination sites for the anti-coronavirus inoculation drive in India. This drive will be monitored by the Union health ministry’s digital platform and the government plans of keeping a track of the beneficiaries using SMSes and QR codes.
“The vaccination sites will not be limited to just healthcare facilities. Such centres would also be set up in Anganwadi centres, schools, panchayat buildings, and other such setups as identified by state governments,” a source told PTI.