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Delivery for Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-vaccine has Proven Challenging

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, according to Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security the complex cold chain logistics required for the Pfizer/BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine have proven challenging in certain settings in the first week of the United States’ vaccination operations. While the principal concern in planning for the distribution of this vaccine has been ensuring that the vaccine remains cold enough, incidents in Alabama and California demonstrate that allowing the vaccines to get too cold could also be a risk. Reportedly, several thousand doses of the vaccine shipped to Alabama and California were exposed to temperatures below the acceptable threshold of -112°F (-80°C) while en route to the state distribution centers. The issue was identified before the doses were unloaded from the truck, and the doses were “quarantined” while Pfizer and federal health and regulatory officials determine whether they remain viable. Pfizer shipped replacement doses to both states. These incidents highlight how challenges in implementing cold chain logistics can lead to wastage of vaccine doses, which could be particularly impactful when supply and production capacity are limited.

The incidents also highlight the importance of temperature monitoring throughout the vaccine distribution and administration process. Reportedly, Pfizer planned to disconnect the temperature monitoring sensors on the shipment containers once delivered to healthcare providers, which would not allow hospitals, health departments, and other organizations storing the vaccine to monitor temperatures to ensure they are stored properly and thawed in accordance with the requirements necessary to administer the vaccine. In response, the US government awarded a US$25 million contract to the Icelandic company that created the temperature monitoring platform used for Pfizer’s shipping containers. Under the new plan, Pfizer will stop monitoring temperatures after the shipment arrives, and the US government will turn the system on again to resume the temperature monitoring.
Vaccinating residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities (LTCFs) will come with unique challenges. Residents and staff of LTCFs account for nearly 40% of COVID-19 deaths in the US, but while LTCF residents are prioritized in the first tier of vaccination, some residents and staff are expressing hesitancy about the vaccine. The concerns include staff members calling in sick due to side effects from the vaccine, which could exacerbate existing staffing shortages, particularly at a time when residents may require increased attention and care due to their own side effects. Additionally, there are questions about how to obtain informed consent for residents who are not capable of providing it themselves. The residents’ legal representatives will be able to provide consent by phone or electronically, but multiple news media reports indicate that there remains uncertainty about the consent process among LTCFs across the country. There are also questions regarding how to conduct make-up vaccination operations for residents and staff who may not be able to be vaccinated during their site’s designated time.
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