Distributing possible Covid-19 vaccine may be faced with challenges

NOW: Distributing possible Covid-19 vaccine may be faced with challenges

ELKHART, Ind. --- If a Covid-19 vaccine is approved by the Food & Drug Administration soon, over 400,000 healthcare workers across the state, would have it readily available to them. 

The hope would be to get vaccines out to Elkhart County and take care of those with the most Covid exposure first. If that approval were to go through, there is a small challenge that may delay the distribution of a vaccine everywhere. 

That challenge is keeping one particular vaccine at frigid temperatures.

"I will definitely be the first in line once it's my turn to get this vaccine," said Dr. Bernard Nahlen, a director at Notre Dame's Eck Institute for Global Health. 

Dr. Bernard mentions that once approved, the coronavirus vaccinations will be safe to take. Pfizer and Moderna, are the two main candidates currently, and almost ready for distribution. The vaccine Pfizer currently is being discussed for an emergency authorization and maybe the first approved, but it poses one unique challenge. 

"The challenge with that vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, is it has to be kept at extremely cold temperatures," said Dr. Nahlen. 

Extremely cold temperatures, much colder than your household freezer. 

"70 and 80 degrees Celsius below freezing and that's like 94 and 112 degrees below freezing in Fahrenheit. That's much colder than most health facilities actually have available," said Dr. Nahlen. 

First shipments hopefully can be expected sometime this month. If approved there is a workaround, according to Dr. Nahlen,  to ensure the vaccine is stored and transported to its rightful location safely, but it also poses challenges. 

"You could maintain the vaccine on dry ice, but that means you have to keep replenishing dry ice, and I'm sure there's going to be a run on dry ice as well," said Dr. Nahlen. 

With dry ice the plan in relation to distribution, health officials understand that distribution, will not reach everyone at first.

"There will not be enough vaccine right off the bat to do everything that needs to be done," said Dr. Nahlen. 

With challenges facing transportation and storage, the first candidates may have to get the shots, instead of waiting for them. 

"You need to be efficient with this vaccine. So this part of this will probably be to get healthcare workers to travel to where the vaccine is," said Dr. Nahlen. 

With a vaccine potentially becoming more readily available, Dr. Nahlen believes thanks to revolutions in medical care, Covid-19 will soon be an afterthought. 

"We will see Covid-19 in the rearview mirror. I have little doubt by this time next year, it will be in the rearview mirror. It will still be around, but there are other viruses that may challenge us," said Dr. Nahlen.

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