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Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty

UPS and Ford Motor Company have both announced they ordered portable, ultra-low temperature freezers for storing coronavirus vaccines when they become available.

Why it matters: While the promising vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is 95% effective, it can only be stored at or around -70 degrees Celsius.

  • The CDC has advised health care providers against purchasing ultra-low temperature freezers, noting that other vaccines without such storage needs will soon be available. But that hasn’t stopped some hospitals from rushing to buy the freezers, which cost $10,000 to $15,000 each, according to STAT.
  • Moderna’s vaccine must be frozen, too, but only at -20 degrees Celsius.

How it works: The freezer is augmented with dry ice, which maintains the vaccine at the appropriate level, said Army Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed. Doing so maintains the correct temperature for up to 20 days for Pfizer and as long as 30 days for Moderna.

The state of play: UPS will produce 1,200 pounds of dry ice per hour in the U.S. and Canada to store and transport frozen vaccines, the company said in a press release on Tuesday. It will use ultra-cold freezers, ranging from -20 to -80 degrees Celsius, to protect the vaccines.

  • UPS will also make dry ice available to U.S. and Canadian hospitals and clinics.
  • FedEx bought ultra-cold freezers to transport vaccines, the Daily Memphian reported in early November.
  • The two companies are part of a coordinated effort to safely and effectively distribute vaccines across the U.S.

Ford has ordered a dozen ultra-cold freezers and plans to offer vaccines exclusively to its employees, the Detroit Free Press reports.

  • The 12 super freezers may not all end up in the U.S.

What they’re saying: “So from Pfizer, Moderna, McKesson trucking, through FedEx, UPS, down to the pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens and many others — the intent was to integrate and synchronize and capitalize on known professionals who know how to execute this,” Perna said on a press call Tuesday.

Context: Hospitals without means will not be able to afford to buy freezers.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.