Wednesday, December 9th 2020, 9:50 am - Canada has purchased both ultra-low and -20 degrees Celsius freezers ahead of the vaccine's arrival
As COVID-19 vaccines make their way into Canada, the cold is becoming a big concern — and we’re not talking about the forecast.
Pfizer's vaccine, in particular, has to be stored in a freezer at an ultra-low temperature of –80 to –60 degrees Celsius, a temperature colder than what Antarctica experiences in winter. Moderna, on the other hand, has said their vaccine can be stored at -20 degrees Celsius, which is more typical of a regular freezer.
“The vaccines use something called messenger RNA — and messenger RNA is not very stable,” explains Dr. Kelly Grindrod, associate professor at The University of Waterloo. “So the way you keep it active, so it can actually work when you give the vaccine to a person, is you freeze it at these really cold temperatures, only thawing it right before you give it to the patient. So it really is about the instability of the molecule; If you thaw it too early or you thaw it accidentally the vaccine will not work.”
Photo: Ultra-low temperature freezer that will store the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Courtesy: Province of Nova Scotia
With the majority of Canada set to receive its first doses of Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December, reporter Rachel Schoutsen finds out how the country is preparing to store and distribute the vaccine, in the video above.