“It’s a harsh rule of reality: the velocity of discovery usually crashes into the difficult challenge of complex logistics!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
There’s only one number you need to know today: -70C.
Or, -94F. That’s colder than a cold day at the North Pole. Actually, here’s a fun fact: the lowest air temperature ever measured by a weather station, minus 89 degrees Celsius (minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit), was recorded in Antarctica at Russia’s Vostok Station in July 1983.
-70C is the temperature at which the newly announced Pfizer vaccine needs to be transported and stored in order to maintain ‘efficacy’ or effectiveness – if it gets rapid approval for distribution.
I don’t want to seem like a downer, but I’ve been telling people about this simple this for months as but one example of the complex challenges that come with any of the potential candidates for a Covid vaccine. I think some of my golfing buddies are tired of hearing me rattle off this fact.
But the reality is that if you think this magically ‘solves’ Covid, and we can all get back to normal now, you’d better check your assumptions. Even if it gets approval, we are dealing with a logistical nightmare that will require a long, long time to manage. Even if the vaccine starts rolling out relatively soon – i.e. within the next several months – we are at least a year before we start to see any sort of return. to any sort of weird new normalcy.
Here’s a little bit of what’s involved, from an MSNBC article.
- the vaccine needs to be manufactured in an ultracold new facility
- each package containing 1,000 to 5,000 doses must be packed in dry ice to keep the vaccine at this temperature;
- each package will feature a thermal sensor, tracked by GPS, to monitor location and temperature – maintaining the latter is critical
- the packages should not be opened more than twice a day and need to be closed within a minute – or the vaccine could be impacted
Those are just a few of the challenges that exist. As the MSNBC article notes:
Experts say it will be a “Herculean effort” requiring several new technologies to work in flawless concert to safely deliver every dose of the drug.
Progress is happening – but progress is complex.