COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet next week to consider authorizing the Pfizer vaccine and distribute it across the country.
If it’s authorized, doses of the vaccine could be headed to South Carolina in mid-to-late December.
The Pfizer vaccine has a complex storage and distribution plan because it must be stored in ultra-cold temperatures. According to the drug company, the vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, or minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
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WMBF News reached out to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to see how hospitals and healthcare providers will handle and store this complex vaccine.
State health officials said the vaccine will be shipped in special storage shipping containers that are provided by Pfizer. The vaccine can be stored in the special containers for up to 15 days but must be recharged with dry ice every five days.
If the vaccine is stored in a refrigerator at slightly above freezing temperatures, and the vaccine thaws out, then it will last for just five days.
And if the healthcare facility has an ultra-cold freezer then the vaccine can be stored for up to six months.
A letter from DHEC to hospitals and healthcare providers explained that they don’t have to have an ultra-cold freezer in order to be a COVID-19 vaccine provider. But those who don’t have one must have a vaccination strategy to vaccinate eligible people within 15 days.
Tidelands Health and Conway Medical Center told WMBF News that they both have ultra-cold freezers.
CMC said before the pandemic it had one ultra-cold freezer, but in anticipation of the vaccine, the healthcare system ordered four more freezers that are expected to arrive this week.