“When the hospitals started filling up, my granddaughter and my grandson said, ‘We don’t want anything to happen to you. We want you to dance at Lizzie’s wedding.’ “
That meant she could no longer see her Lizzie or Lizzie’s brother. But a hint of a smile spread across Hutcheson’s face when she added, “Lizzie is 6. She better get married at 12 because I’m old.”
Susan Deur, 62, of Plainwell, Michigan stood outside the plant for hours in near-freezing temperatures on Sunday morning to watch the trucks leave. She said she’ll get the vaccine when it’s her turn.
“It is pretty exciting,” she said. “I’m pretty proud of our Pfizer here in Kalamazoo.”
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is about 95 per cent effective, is the first to leap all federal regulatory hurdles except one, the blessing of Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
If he signs off, Pfizer has said it will deliver 6.4 million doses around the US in this initial shipment.
The shipment early on Sunday morning from its plant in Portage involved 1.95 million doses of the vaccine. Each vial of the vaccine includes five doses, the company said. And 975 vials fit in each of its insulated boxes. A total of 400 boxes were loaded onto those trucks.
Because Pfizer’s vaccine must be frozen at the ultra-cold temperature of minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-70 degrees Celsius ) or lower for storage, shipping doses to hospitals and public health agencies is a challenge.
The vaccines can be kept safely at 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 24 hours or at room temperature for no more than two hours after it thaws, the company says.
That means hospitals and public health agencies around the state have been buying ultra-cold deep freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine, and the company had to come up with creative ways to ship it.
Pfizer created temperature-controlled thermal shippers that use dry ice to maintain ultra-cold temperatures for up to 10 days unopened. Some of the boxes will be sent by air to hubs around the US, the company says, and then delivered to the sites where they’ll be administered. Others will be delivered by ground transport.
The company said it is taking precautions to ensure that the vaccines stay cold enough during shipping.
“We will utilise GPS-enabled thermal sensors with a control tower that will track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment across their pre-set routes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the company said in a fact sheet about vaccine distribution.
Once the ultra-cold boxes of vaccines arrive, they can remain in the thermal shippers for as long as 30 days as long as the dry ice is replaced every five days, the company says. And the vials can be stored for up to five days at temperatures of 17-28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Detroit Free Press