Pfizer’s groundbreaking Covid-19 vaccine has been the talk of the town thanks to its potential and approval for use in the UK. The vaccine is thought to be manufactured in Belgium and will need to be stored at -70C before its use to prevent it from denaturing at room temperature before it is administered. However, many are sceptical about the new vaccines.
A survey conducted by Springer which focused on the willingness of people being vaccinated against covid-19 once developed found that there were 8 main concerns that people had. From the image below we can see the highest concern is potential side effects to the vaccine indicating women were more hesitant than men.
This is just the beginning of a mass scale complex logistical operation which is both technical and time-based to help protect the UK from the virus, especially those most vulnerable. The vaccine is based on a technology called an mRNA vaccine and can be constructed quickly by using only the pathogens genetic code.
The ribonucleic acid (RNA) vaccine works by introducing the body to a messenger RNA, which is the mRNA sequence. This sequence contains the genetic code and instructions which will make the person’s own cells produce vaccine antigens by the body’s immune system. This will build up a resilience to the virus should the person ever become infected, generating immediate response. This, in theory, will make the body recognise the new covid cells and begin fighting them as immune memory will kick in.
Studies have shown the Pfizer vaccine to be effective by 95% in preventing covid-19 in people and works well for all different age groups. This is especially important for the elderly who are most vulnerable. The UK government has secured a colossal 40 million doses which are to be brought to the UK through the Euro Channel Tunnel from Belgium and will be enough to vaccinate 20million people. This is because two doses need to be given to each person between a three week time period for full effect.
How will the vaccine be distributed?
Due to the vaccine’s nature, the vaccine’s pre-packed boxes will need to be shipped via refrigerated lorries for planes to one centralised spot in the UK. From here, the boxes will undergo quality control and will be tested to ensure they are safe and have not been denatured in the process of being brought over, which will make them ineffective.
Once the batches of vaccines have been approved, they will then be moved to storage freezers. Thankfully the vaccine has a long shelf life and can be kept in the storage freezers for months, just as long as the freezer’s temperature is maintained at -70C. Any alteration in this will mean the vaccines will need to be used quickly or even discarded. Below is an infographic by the BBC of the possible distribution process.
It is thought that once at the centralised depot, the vaccines will make their way to 50 hospital hubs around the UK. Storing the vaccine at -70C will not be necessary at vaccination centres. This is because they will be used immediately and stored in regular fridges to be frozen as they can last up to 30days. The hubs will then have the power to vaccinate locals in the area according to government guidelines.
Before the vaccine can be administered, it will need to be defrosted, talking about several hours. Then, time will need to be given to prepare the vaccine and ensure all administration is carried out correctly. As with most injections, the vaccine will then be administered as an intramuscular injection in the upper arm. In some cases where patients cannot travel, or there are many to vaccinate such as in care homes, the vaccine can be transported to them in vials in a freezer transport van or container that remains at -2-8C.
The UK government has also launched the covid vaccination card which vaccinated individuals will receive upon their vaccination. The card details credentials such as the date and time of their vaccinate and where it was administered. It is thought the elderly, 80 and over and homecare staff will receive the vaccine first followed at a later stage by the over 65’s, most vulnerable and healthcare staff.
However, there are many issues with vaccination cards, and the fact that they are paper-based. The cards can easily be lost or even counterfeited, creating a new potential type of illegal activity. People may wish to buy cards if they do not believe in the vaccine as the card may play a vital role in letting people onto airplanes and events as proof of vaccination. With this in mind and the abundant amount of technology at our fingertips, might it be better to have an app on our smartphones which can hold this type of information.
Or even use blockchain technology which can keep the information secure and free of any changes?
Already, some of the most recent smartphones, like Samsung, which, according to Smartphone Checker, run on high-performance Snapdragon chipset have blockchain integrated, which will possibly enable medical institutions to transfer data with ease.
There are many concerns regarding the vaccine’s storage needs and if they can be met every time. If vaccines enter the country and pass their quality control tests, how is there a way of knowing if they have denaturalised before being administered?