Vaccinologist believes logistical issues could arise when coronavirus vaccines become available


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Pharmaceutical corporation, Pfizer, expects to have the first vaccine made available soon, but it needs to be stored in extremely cold temperatures, raising logistical issues. UH Vaccinologist Dr. Axel Lehrer says proper storage is probably one of the biggest problems that come with the Pfizer’s proposed vaccine.

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“You know, if the vaccine has deviated from the recommended storage temperature, then you don’t know whether it’s going to work,” said Dr. Lehrer.

Dr. Lehrer adds that while Oahu has some supplies, it could be a lot harder for the neighbor islands.

“I don’t think we have any large scale storage for this,” he said. “So there will be, you know, people will have to buy new freezers and so on. But we have a facility here that makes liquid nitrogen and dry ice on Oahu. So on Oahu, we may be in slightly better shape.”

Lehrer says he’s noticed a recent shortage in the supply chain for ultra cold freezers needed to store vaccines.

“These are normal things that we use in the biomedical research field. So we have a lot of them in our lab, but you know a normal pharmacy, or a doctor’s office, or even a hospital, they typically don’t or may have one of those kind of freezers. So that’s what the limitation here is,” added Lehrer.

The Queens Medical Center says it’s working with the state to come up with a solution.

“So the vaccine’s responsibility is actually at the state level. Queens is going to be a partner in this work and this issue of how we are going to store the vaccine and what are the logistics of distributing the vaccine is something at the state level, the county level and all of the health systems levels. We’re talking about ensuring we have the resources to make it happen when the vaccine becomes available,” said Queens Health System Senior Vice President Dr. Rick Bruno.

Nevertheless, Dr. Lehrer says he is excited to learn that a vaccine for this virus is possible.

“We actually can develop a successful and efficacious vaccine,” he exclaims. “That’s the really good news of this week.”

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