About 100 million people tuned in to the watch the Super Bowl on Sunday – that’s almost four times the number of Americans who have received their first jab of a COVID-19 vaccine.
While the world’s largest vaccination effort is not going 100% according to plan, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination tracker shows that of the 59.3 million doses delivered to health care providers, 69% have been administered. And momentum is building as approximately 1.4 million doses are being administered daily.
Plus, there may soon be more vaccines available. On Feb. 4, Johnson & Johnson announced its submission to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. If successful, the J&J vaccine would become the third approved in the U.S., and it would be the most easily deployed because it requires only one shot and can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures (36°F to 46°F) for three months.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both require a two-dose regimen and much more elaborate cold chain requirements. For example, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is stable for only five days at those refrigeration temperatures.
The cold chain is a term used to define the conditions vaccines must be stored at all the way from production and distribution to the time of administration at vaccination sites, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
The graphic below shows how the COVID-19 vaccines vary in their storage requirements, compared to one another and also compared to the flu vaccine. (Note that the long-term storage temperature for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is colder than the average temperature on Mars. Most pharmacies and doctors’ offices simply don’t have the capacity for that type of cold storage.)
The vast majority of vaccines have been administered from mass vaccination sites, but the distribution channels are set to expand with the Biden administration’s Feb. 2 announcement that vaccines will be delivered directly to pharmacies (on a limited basis) starting Feb. 11.
This will allow for broader access and distribution, but local facilities face logistical hurdles in maintaining the ultra-low storage temperatures needed for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Our hope is that the number of doses administered increases past the 69% we have seen so far, which would alleviate much of the risk of spoiled doses caused by improper storage.
Even with the logistical and storage challenges, the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history is underway a year after the initial COVID-19 outbreak here. This is an astonishing effort to curb the devastating health and economic damages of the pandemic, and populations must remain vigilant as vaccine efforts continue to ramp up.
For more information on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting midsize businesses, please visit the RSM Coronavirus Resource Center.