KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 — Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, with a storage temperature of -70 degrees Celsius, can only be moved four times within its cold chain before use, British health authorities said.
According to the National Health Service (NHS) England that is gearing up to deploy its first Covid-19 vaccine, each box of the mRNA vaccine by US pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc and its German partner, BioNTech, contains five packs of 975 doses, Bloomberg reported.
Then, each box must be unpacked manually and the temperature downloaded to check if it hasn’t changed in transit. Once defrosted, the Covid-19 vaccine only has a days’ long lifespan.
The United Kingdom (UK) government has planned that when more vaccines become available, smaller vaccination sites, including local pharmacies, will be involved in the administration of the vaccine, Bloomberg quoted the government as saying.
The Pfizer vaccine has been arriving at secure locations in the UK from Belgium through military aircraft, BBC reported. The freezers at secure locations in the UK can each hold more than 80,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine that requires sub-zero storage temperature.
Quality checks have been done to ensure that the vaccine has been kept at the correct temperature. The vaccines are planned to arrive at UK hospitals today and the first vaccinations will be given to patients aged 80 and above, who are already in the hospitals or attending appointments there.
In the case where the appointments are not used by the first-priority groups (patients above 80 years old), the jab will be given to health care workers who are at high risk of contracting the Covid-19.
The UK has purchased 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which targets to inoculate 20 million people through its two-dose regimen.
The priority group for the UK Covid-19 vaccination programme is as below :
- First: Residents in a home for older adults and their carers.
- Second: Everyone aged 80 and above as well as frontliners, and social care workers.
- Third: People aged 75 years and above
- Fourth: People aged above 70 and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
- Fifth: For those aged 65 years and above
- Sixth: People aged between 16 and 64 with underlying health conditions
- Seventh: For those aged 60 and above
- Eighth: For those aged 55 and above
- Nineth: For those aged 50 and above
- Meanwhile, famous British figures have stepped forward to volunteer to get the vaccine first to encourage the public to follow suit. The royal family — Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip — are in the top priority list for the vaccines, while celebrities like Michael Palin, Bob Geldof, and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood said they won’t hesitate to get the vaccine.
Chief Executive of Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) Dr June Raine said that the UK is fully prepared for any possible outcome from the vaccine.
She said that there should be no doubt that the vaccine is safe and highly effective.
“The highest standards of scrutiny, of safety and of effectiveness and quality have been met, international standards,” Dr Raine said.
The UK government also has a “yellow card scheme” where patients and health care professionals can voluntarily report any suspected safety concerns from the vaccine.