The complicated logistics of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s distribution made for a bumpy start to the immunization campaign in Bavaria, Germany on Sunday. The vaccine has to be stored at extremely low temperatures to maintain the stability of proteins that trigger an immune response, and it needs to be used within days once it’s unfrozen. Now, concerns over cold chain integrity have put the vaccination on hold, Bayerischer Rundfunk radio has reported.
Officials in seven districts of Upper Franconia and two districts of Swabia decided to suspend vaccinations after discovering inconsistencies in records of temperature in transport boxes. Swabian authorities have since consulted the producer and decided to proceed as planned, but the situation in Franconia remains fluid.
“If there is even the slightest chance that the vaccine does not meet the quality criteria 100 percent, a batch will not be deployed,” Christian Meissner, the chair of Upper Franconian District Association, said about the decision. He added that the public expects the process to be “flawless.”
The shipping boxes developed for the vaccine use dry ice to keep the temperature relatively low, but higher than below -70 degrees Celsius. The producer says that under these conditions the vaccine remains viable for up to 10 days. Upon delivery, it needs to be put back into an extra cold freezer for long-term storage, kept in the transport box for up to 30 days with additional cold ice added as necessary or moved to a regular refrigerator and be used within five days. Once unfrozen, the vaccine cannot be frozen again.
Most German federal states received some 10,000 doses of the vaccine, or 150,000 doses for the entire country. A total of 1.3 million vaccine doses are to be delivered by the end of the year. A second booster shot is required three weeks after the first shot for the formula to have full effect.
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