COVID-19 vaccines: same virus, so why different conditions?

The global response to the pandemic has seen unprecedented worldwide collaboration in the race to develop vaccines. With more information and research findings shared than ever before, and the urgent pressure to find, test and distribute effective protection, multiple vaccines have been approved at a truly inspirational pace.

They all target the COVID-19 virus and offer protection against severe illness, yet require different storage, transportation and administration conditions. In short, this is because they are not formulated in the same way. We are proud to offer temperature monitoring solutions across the range of Covid vaccines, whether it be in storage or while distributing the vaccines.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a brand new technology to unlock the body’s immune defences. Messenger RNA, or mRNA converts cells in the patient so that they produce a specific coronavirus protein. This protein initiates an immune response in the body, as although there’s only one virus protein present (and the patient is therefore not infected or sick with COVID-19) the body reacts as if it is fighting a genuine coronavirus infection. This teaches the body how to respond, so that if the patient later becomes infected with COVID-19 they know how to fight it and are far less likely to get seriously ill.

This incredible new approach to immunisation allows vaccine to be produced much faster than traditional forms of jab. However, mRNA is very fragile, so easily destroyed if not protected from enzymes that will break it apart. Though scientists have ensured the mRNA is as stable as possible, and used lipid nanoparticles to provide a layer of protection, it is still fragile. The lower the temperature, the slower any chemical reaction. This means enzymes that could break down the mRNA are inhibited. Exactly as we freeze food to stop it spoiling, the vaccine must therefore be frozen to protect it from breaking down.

The Pfizer covid-19 vaccine must be stored at -70 C, which is colder than winter in Antarctica! It therefore requires specialised freezers for storage, and to be packed in dry ice for transport. This is not impossible, and Africa offers reassurance in this sense. The Ebola vaccine also required this ultra-cold chain storage and was successfully administered on the continent.

Devices such as the Tempod 90S are invaluable when dealing with such extreme necessary temperatures. This single use ultra-low temperature data logger is perfect for use with vaccines being distributed under dry ice conditions. Designed for ease of use, this probe-less unit has an inbuilt USB port for swift downloading of data and configuration.

The Moderna vaccine can be stored at -20 C, closer to a regular freezer. It is then thawed in the refrigerator where it will last for 30 days and can also be kept at room temperature for up to 12 hours before being administered. This means transporting the vaccine is far more straightforward, especially to remote communities.

The Tempsen Itag 4 temperature data logger is WHO approved. It has a measurable range of -30C – 70C and a run time of 60 days, making it perfect for this vaccine which might move from -20C to room temperature within that period. It is a single use device, and offers guaranteed reliability.

The AstraZeneca vaccine works in a more conventional way. It contains a weakened version of a cold virus found in chimpanzees. Modified to look more like coronavirus, it is injected into the patient and the body learns how to fight the real virus by encountering this one. It can be stored for at least 6 months and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures of 2-8 C. This makes it the most straightforward for global distribution.

There are many products which can indicate any breach from this temperature range, including the ETimestrip TC 489. This temperature indicator uses a set of 3 coloured LEDs to provide a clear non-reversible indication of upper and lower temperature breaches. It also has the hygienic advantage of being single use.

Given the likelihood that this vaccine will be transported globally by air and sea, the Tempsen Itag 3 PRO is also valuable. This pre-programmed single use temperature data logger has a 15 day monitoring period and generates an encrypted PDF report on arrival.

We are inspired by the scientific co-operation and innovation which is spearheading the global effort against COVID-19. It is our pleasure to provide temperature monitoring solutions to aid the safe storage, distribution and administration of these new vaccines which offer worldwide hope of an exit from pandemic restrictions.