The news that Pfizer’s COVID vaccine remains stable when stored for a month at refrigerator temperature could help poorer regions get better access.
The Food and Drug Administration says the thawed Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine can be stored for up to a month before being thrown out. The news that the vaccine remains stable at lower temperatures provides an enormous boost for the worldwide distribution of the vaccine.
The FDA announced Wednesday that the thawed, undiluted vaccine can be stored in refrigerators between 35 degrees and 46 degrees Fahrenheit for up to a month. Previously, it could only be kept for five days after thawing.
The announcement comes after Pfizer released data showing the vials remained stable at refrigerator temperatures, the FDA said.
One of the big concerns with the Pfizer vaccine — the first one to receive emergency use authorization by the FDA — was that it had to be transported and stored at ultra-cold temperatures. When it first was authorized last December, it needed to stay between from minus 112 degrees to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. That created a problem because not all medical facilities and pharmacies had that type of refrigeration available. Dry ice was used to help keep the vials cold.
In February, the FDA changed its guidance and said the vials could be transported and stored for up to two weeks at minus 13 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit — temperatures of freezers commonly found in pharmacies.
With Pfizer announcing Friday that it is donating 2 billion doses to middle- and low-income countries over the next 18 months, the news about the lower temperature necessary to keep the vaccine stable means those nations which may not have ultra-cold facilities won’t need to worry about it as much.