In Brief

Coronavirus: how the deep-freezed Pfizer vaccine will be rolled out across Britain

Care homes may face delays in getting deliveries of the Covid-19 jab owing to logistical difficulties

The world’s first approved coronavirus vaccine is also, unfortunately, one of the most complex to distribute.

The need to keep the drug at a temperature of minus 70C has led its manufacturers, Pfizer and BioNTech, to develop an “innovative way to transport the vials”, says The Telegraph - but one that introduced its own challenges.

After rolling off the production line in the Belgium town of Puurs, near Antwerp, “the doses will be packed into special cool boxes the size of a suitcase, packed with dry ice and GPS trackers”, the paper explains. “These reusable boxes can safely store up to 5,000 doses of the vaccine for ten days.”

The carefully packaged doses will be shipped by both air and road to the UK, and then distributed to vaccination hubs. “Fifty NHS hospitals in England are already equipped with super-cold freezers that can keep the vaccine at minus 70C,” the Daily Mail reports.

The problem for the government is that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that care home residents should be among the first people to receive the jab - but getting doses to them will be tricky.

Separating out a small batch for a single care home will mean vials “have to be removed from the dry ice suitcases for transport”, says the Mail. “But once they are in transit, the doses could perish after six hours.”

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said yesterday that care home staff would be vaccinated first, along with NHS staff and people aged over 80 who can travel to a hospital vaccination centre.

The health service is investigating safe ways of transporting smaller vaccine batches, he added, and “as soon as we have the regulatory sign-off”, deliveries to care homes will begin.

“GP practices will then operate local vaccination centres as more vaccine becomes available,” reports the London Evening Standard.

Immunisations are expected to begin early next week, using the first 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine - enough to give 400,000 people the two-shot course. A total of ten million doses are expected to be delivered this month, and another 30 million next year.

Meanwhile, the Moderna and Oxford vaccines, which do not have to be kept at such low temperatures, are still awaiting approval from regulators.

Delivering all of the various Covid-19 vaccines, once approved, will be “the largest and most complex global logistics operation ever undertaken”, according to the International Air Transport Association.

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