The world is slowly moving towards global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic after several vaccines have been recently approved for use. While some countries have already made vaccination progress, others still work on their delivery plans and immunization schedules.

Nevertheless, numerous governments face challenges in terms of dose transportation and storage, as vaccines need to be stored and distributed at glacial temperatures. Moderna isn’t as demanding as Pfizer regarding storage, as doses should be kept at -20˚C compared to -70˚C, optimal for the storage of Pfizer shots. In any case, countries need ultra-low lab freezers for this purpose.

Learn more about the requirements for COVID-19 lab freezers.

Temperature control

Temperature control should be an indispensable feature of COVID-19 lab freezers. In order for COVID-19 vaccines to be stored at an adequate temperature, these units are supposed to have highly adjustable thermostats. Some of the best models allow users to adjust temperatures in increments of 0.1 ˚C, which is essential when requiring precise adjustments.

In order for ultra-low freezers to maintain glacial temperatures, they consume much more energy than standard refrigerators. Nevertheless, the latter could never be used for storing COVID-19 vaccines due to their low cooling capacity of -30˚C. Ultra-low units should come with displays, showing the current internal temperature in order for laboratory workers to notice signs of malfunction. Read here about the status of COVID-19 vaccines, their prioritization, and country readiness.

An alarm system

Another remarkably important feature of ultra-low freezers should be an alarm system, sending audio and visual alerts to warn lab workers about a potential temperature increase. The alarm system is supposed to be battery-operated in order to be functional in the event of a power outage. Otherwise, it won’t be able to notify users of a potential blackout, which might be detrimental to the condition of the products inside.

In order for COVID-19 vaccines to be functional, they need to be distributed and stored at polar temperatures. For instance, the shots made by Pfizer have to be stored at -70˚C, whereas those of Moderna should be kept at -20˚C.

Consequently, the former poses serious challenges in terms of distribution and storage for many countries facing a deficiency of ultra-low freezers. Therefore, Pfizer has invented a special dry ice packaging, which keeps the doses cold for no longer than several weeks.

While the majority of other vaccines impose no freezing requirements, the COVID-19 type is different because of the new approach used in the production process. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is the base of COVID-19 vaccines, whose role is to instruct the body cells to produce the coronavirus protein. These protein copies prepare the immune system for an attack in case it comes in contact with the virus. The following link, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messenger_RNA, explains the structure, and degradation of messenger RNA.

While these vaccines take shorter to be made, messenger RNA is incredibly susceptible to breaking apart unless it’s frozen. The breaking down process happens incredibly slowly at freezing temperatures, which is why the doses should be kept in ultra-low freezers.

The difference in storage requirements between the products provided by both companies isn’t clear enough due to the secrecy related to their formulation. Nevertheless, the Moderna vaccine is believed to have lower temperature requirements due to the stability provided by lipid nanoparticles.

Given the fragile nature of mRNA, an alarm system is essential for alarming lab and health workers about any unfavorable change in temperature. Also, the storage units are supposed to keep a record of storage temperature in order to provide proof of adhering to the required vaccine storage requirements.

Separate internal compartments

Ambient air is one of the worst enemies of temperature-sensitive products stored in freezers. In order for a COVID lab freezer to minimize the intrusion of ambient air, the unit is supposed to have a main door and multiple interior compartments. Consequently, the exposure of the content to ambient air would be confined to a specific compartment. Naturally, the door of each compartment should be properly insulated to prevent potential damage.

Final thoughts

COVID-19 vaccines are useless unless stored properly.

Governments should be careful in the choice of lab freezers to ensure successful immunization!

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