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WMed ready to store Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

WMed Ultra-Cold COVID-19 Vaccine Freezer
Posted at 5:42 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 17:42:22-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — With potential emergency approval of COVID-19 vaccine right around the corner in the United States, a local medical school said they would be ready to receive it.

Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine is a research facility which is why they already have two ultra-cold freezers that could be used to store Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

They said if it was ready to be distributed, they could hold it now.

"We are ready. We’re ready to vaccinate. We are just fine tuning our plans," said WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine's Manager of Occupational Health and Infection Control Robin Scott.

It's just the logistics left to figure out as Pfizer continues to prepare to roll out its COVID-19 vaccine.

WMed said they have the equipment ready to store it. How much of it you may ask?

"I haven’t seen the packaging, but if they were individual vials I would guess we could store close to ten thousand vials in this freezer," said WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine's Technical Director of Toxicology Prentiss Jones, PhD.

Jones said they have two freezers that reach ultra-cold temperatures required to store the vaccine which is around -112 degrees Fahrenheit or -70 degrees Celsius.

"The idea is that you must protect the messenger RNA, and so it just depends...by itself it is not protected. If it’s not chilled at whatever the manufacturer has to protect it with, it would degrade. Depending on the formulation from the manufacturer, it could vary," said Jones.

At that cold of temperatures, Jones said it could be stored there for up to six months.

Once it's handled and ready to be given out, there will be strict protocols.

"The storage and handling of the vaccine is very controlled by the state as well as the health department on the local level. There will be probably very minimal people handling it and using it just because we have to have complete inventory of the vaccine, and the amount of doses given on a daily basis," said Scott.

WMed said most vaccines can be stored in normal refrigerator temperatures while others require -4 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.

The ultra-cold freezers needed for Pfizer's vaccine are generally at universities or research facilities because of the rare low temps needed.