The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday approved storing Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at standard freezer temperatures, helping ease storage requirements that could make delivery of the vaccine easier.
The Pfizer vaccine had previously been required to be stored in ultra-cold freezers at minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. That posed a challenge for distribution of the vaccine in places like rural areas or lower income countries that do not have widespread ultra-cold storage capability.
The new move will allow the vaccine to be stored at “conventional temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers for a period of up to two weeks.”
“This alternative temperature for transportation and storage of the undiluted vials is significant and allows the vials to be transported and stored under more flexible conditions,” Peter Marks, a top FDA vaccine official, said in a statement.
“The alternative temperature for transportation and storage will help ease the burden of procuring ultra-low cold storage equipment for vaccination sites and should help to get vaccine to more sites,” he added.
Pfizer had applied to the FDA for the less-stringent storage requirements last week, after it conducted studies on safe storage temperatures.
In addition, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which could be authorized by the FDA as soon as this weekend, has been eagerly awaited not only because it will add to the U.S. vaccine supply, but because it does not require ultra-cold storage.
Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is also only one shot, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a two-dose regimen.