Special shipping for Pfizer vaccine with remote temperature monitoring

The Pfizer vaccine is to be shipped in special storage containers which will keep it at ultra-low temperatures until it is ready to be administered.

Special GPS trackers will mean that the temperature of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be remotely monitored to ensure it stays at the correct heat to keep it effective.

Details of how the vaccine could be transported and stored emerged following concerns that the NHS may face difficulties handling a vaccine which needs to be stored at minus 70C.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said while rollout was not “easy”, he was confident the NHS can deliver the vaccine despite the logistics involved.

Pfizer has designed a suitcase-sized container that will keep the doses at minus 70C for up to 10 days using dry ice.

Each of the containers, dubbed “shippers”, holds around 1,000 doses and will be fitted with thermal sensors to enable the pharmaceutical giant to track the location and temperature of the frozen vaccine vials.

The thermal shipping systems can be recharged with dry ice if needed, Pfizer said.

Vaccines will be shipped by air and road, but not boat due to the time constraints.

And once the vaccine has been transported it can be stored in a fridge for up to five days at 2-8C – which is entirely feasible in a standard medicine fridge at a GP practice.

HEALTH Coronavirus
HEALTH Coronavirus

Mr Hancock told Sky News: “This is a challenging rollout and the NHS in all parts of the UK stands ready to make that happen.

“They are used to handling vaccines and medicines like this, with these sorts of conditions.

“It’s not easy but we’ve got those plans in place, so this morning I spoke to my counterparts in the devolved nations to make sure that we are all ready to roll out this vaccine … from early next week.”

In November, Mr Hancock said that rolling out a Covid vaccine to the masses could pose a “mammoth logistical operation”.

And a senior Government adviser said he was “very confident” there is robust storage available.

Mr Hancock told the Commons in November that from the moment the vaccine leaves the factory in Belgium it can only be taken out of minus 70C four times before it is injected into a patient’s arm.

“It is a mammoth logistical operation which the NHS is leading,” the minister said.