The Covid Vaccine is near: Preservation a Challenge

The Covid Vaccine is near: Preservation a Challenge
10 Nov 2020

The first effective coronavirus vaccine developers – Pfizer and BioNTech unanimously assure that the vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19. The companies planned to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of November 2020. This would be the first vaccine ever found in the history which has proved highly effective and about to launch in such a short period of time. The US president-elect Joe Biden said it was “excellent news” to the world.

The vaccine has been tested among 43500 people in six countries and so far proved safe. The challenges naturally are there ahead, but the vaccine will be a remarkable welcoming milestone in the history of the pandemic in the world.  

The data has proved that the vaccine needs to be applied in two doses within a span of three weeks. The trials have been taken up in the US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey. The trials showed 90% protection after its second dose and within seven days. However, the research analysis is going on for the final conclusion and inference.

Dr Albert Bourla, the chairman of Pfizer, and the Prof. Ugur Sahin of BioNTech described the vaccine as “a significant breakthrough” and “a milestone” to put an end to the global pandemic crisis.

The companies will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. The vaccination campaign is about to start by the end of this year after getting approval. The priority will be given to the hospital staff, care home workers, those vulnerable people and the elderly people who are at risk of Covid-19. People under 50 and with no medical problems are likely to be last in the queue of priority.

The greatest challenge among the countries that are having a high temperature is the preservation of the vaccine and its logistics. Because the vaccine need be preserved in ultra-cold storage at below minus 80C.

So it has been a debatable question in all such countries having high temperature as the Covid-19 vaccine that is heat tolerant and how it can be transported to remote areas where cold chain environment is not ensured.

Considering the grave situation, some Indian scientists are therefore working on such a kind of vaccine that could overcome the heat-tolerance of the vaccine now in the launching pad t come out. They are working on a vaccine that is heat-stable and can be stored either at 100C for 90 minutes and at 70C for about 16 hours, or at 37C for more than a month and more. Normally, vaccines that can withstand high temperatures are very rare.

There are five stages by which we could make the vaccine accessible to the grass-root level of the infected. Firstly we have to transport the vaccine to the country destinations by air. Then it has to be transported to the regional stores through refrigerated Lorries. From there we have to transport the same through a refrigerated mechanism to local centres. Again it has to be transferred to the vaccination centres safely under the micro-refrigeration mechanism. In almost all points we need refrigeration facilities to keep the vaccine. But it is very difficult to find such facilities in the remote villages and tribal outskirts of India. This is the grave situation that India undergoes now, otherwise, a heat-stable vaccine has to be invented for the Indian environment.

India at present is expected to receive and utilise 400-500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and plans to inoculate some 250 million people between January and July next year. For the success of this massive programme, India needs a vast and expansive cold chain environment all over the country. India, at present, has already a robust network of state-owned cold storages for vaccines that can provide vaccine to more than eight million locations. This facility may not be sufficient to overcome the Covid- vaccination campaign. Hence, ensuring an effective cold chain for a mass immunisation programme will be a big challenge for India.

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