Parents unsure about Pfizer vaccine’s cold chain management

Published September 3, 2021
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus Covid-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken on October 30, 2020. — Reuters/File
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus Covid-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken on October 30, 2020. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: While the government has decided to vaccinate children below 18 years of age with Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, parents are worried if the government’s vaccinators could be able to maintain the cold chain management for this American vaccine because it is required to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.

But, according to national manager of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) Akram Shah, parents need not to worry as new stability studies have changed all protocols for storage of Pfizer vaccine.

Meanwhile, as many as 4,103 Covid-19 cases and 89 deaths were reported in a single day on Thursday.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has advised people to go for vaccination at the earliest.

Over 4,000 Covid infections recorded

When asked about the government’s decision to vaccinate children below the age of 18 years, parents have expressed doubts about the government teams’ capacity to maintain the cold chain management.

Sohail Jamil, father of a 17-year-old girl, said the government’s decision had disturbed him as according to his information vaccine was stored at -70 degrees Celsius and he was not sure that if the country had the capacity to store this vaccine across the country.

Sohail Jamil is not the only person who is worried because of the decision. A large number of parents have similar concerns.

Mqbool Ahmed, father of a child, said that he might not have worries if the vaccine had to be administered to him, but since parents are more concerned about the health of their children, he was not sure if his son should be administered Pfizer vaccine.

“Over the years we have been hearing that polio vaccine was expired because the cold chain management could not be maintained. I am not sure if vaccine can be stored at -70 degrees Celsius in Pakistan, especially across the country. Let’s say if that temperature is maintained in Islamabad how it can be maintained in far-flung areas of Balochistan and other provinces,” he wondered.

It is worth mentioning that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had on Sept 1 decided that all children under the age of 18 will be administered Pfizer vaccine. However, EPI national manager Akram Shah, while talking to Dawn, said that parents should not worry at all.

“It is correct that Pfizer is stored at -70 degrees Celsius when it has to be stored for a long time. However, now it can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius for 10 weeks. According to initial protocols, Pfizer vaccine could be stored in normal freezer for two weeks, then period was increased to 31 days and now it has been extended to 10 weeks. It has happened because of the ongoing stability studies,” he said.

According to him, Russian vaccine Sputnik-V was stored at -15 degrees Celsius and could be kept outside the freezer for only one hour. However, he said, a stability study had been going on since April so there was possibility that protocols might change.

“Protocols for Pfizer vaccine have rapidly changed. Vaccine is kept in powder form and mixed in a diluent which is called reconstitution and then it is administered to people,” he said.

When asked if the country has the capacity to store the vaccine at -70 degrees Celsius, Mr Shah said that there were 21 storages in which Pfizer vaccine could be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.

“Those storages are in Islamabad, Peshawar, Mingora, Abbottabad, Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Quetta, Karachi, Hyderabad and some other cities. We have been procuring 18 more storages to store Pfizer vaccine as we have been expecting to get 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine every month,” he said.

When asked about the storage capacity, Mr Shah said that currently three million doses can be stored for a long time, but as there was high demand/requirement of vaccine, as per estimates, 15 million doses would be consumed in 22 days. So there was no need to store the vaccine at a very low temperature, he added.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2021

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