When Molly Howell, a state health officer in North Dakota, watched a webinar discussing how to distribute the vaccine that is expected to be the first Covid-1
“What should we do?” She texted a colleague who was also on the webinar.
Her colleague responded with an explosive head emoji.
Pfizer announced on Monday that the initial phase 3 clinical trial results showed that the vaccine is more than 90% effective. If approved, Pfizer’s vaccine will also be the most vulnerable vaccine used in the United States, and Pfizer health officials in charge of the distribution worry that the process will not proceed smoothly.
Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored in an environment of approximately minus 75 degrees Celsius, which is about 50 degrees lower than any vaccine currently used in the United States. Doctor’s offices, pharmacies and national laboratories do not have freezers as low as freezers.
The solution is a set of processing and storage requirements that doctors at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described as “very complicated.”
The CDC has asked states to be ready to receive Pfizer’s vaccine by November 15, but state officials said that they first heard the specific request on October 15, which gave them weeks of preparation time.
Dr. Kelly Moore, deputy director of the Immunization Action Coalition, said state health officials were “shocked” when they heard the storage requirements for the new vaccine. The coalition is supporting frontline workers who will use the coronavirus vaccine. These requirements include purchasing and processing large quantities of dry ice, which is in short supply in many parts of the country.
She said: “We all hope that there will be a major failure.”