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Temperature concerns could slow the rollout of new coronavirus vaccines

by Jocelyn Kaiser | Story Source    Friday November 27, 2020 - 12:18 AM
HEALTH
* Covid-19 *
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Temperature concerns could slow the rollout of new coronavirus vaccines
oday's dramatic news that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine might work as well as one made by Pfizer and BioNTech means the world could have two powerful weapons to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the next hot vaccine topic is, well, heat. Both vaccines use a novel technology—strands of messenger RNA (mRNA), held within lipid particles—that is vulnerable to degradation at room temperature and requires doses to be frozen for transportation, then thawed for use.

That's where the Moderna vaccine may have an edge: Unlike Pfizer's and BioNTech's offering, it does not have to be stored at –70°C, but can tolerate a much warmer –20°C, which is standard for most hospital and pharmacy freezers. That difference means Moderna's vaccine should be easier to distribute and store, particularly in the rural United States and developing countries that lack ultracold freezers. Moderna says years of development work enabled its vaccine to be stored at higher temperatures, but last week another mRNA vaccine company announced it is testing a COVID-19 vaccine that early studies suggest can survive at the even warmer temperatures of 2°C to 8°C found in refrigerators.

Today's dramatic news that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine might work as well as one made by Pfizer and BioNTech means the world could have two powerful weapons to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the next hot vaccine topic is, well, heat. Both vaccines use a novel technology—strands of messenger RNA (mRNA), held within lipid particles—that is vulnerable to degradation at room temperature and requires doses to be frozen for transportation, then thawed for use.

That's where the Moderna vaccine may have an edge: Unlike Pfizer's and BioNTech's offering, it does not have to be stored at –70°C, but can tolerate a much warmer –20°C, which is standard for most hospital and pharmacy freezers. That difference means Moderna's vaccine should be easier to distribute and store, particularly in the rural United States and developing countries that lack ultracold freezers. Moderna says years of development work enabled its vaccine to be stored at higher temperatures, but last week another mRNA vaccine company announced it is testing a COVID-19 vaccine that early studies suggest can ...

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