The Federal Government has purchased three ultra-cold freezers to store the 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive in the country between January to February 2021.
The three ultra-cold freezers are currently domiciled at the National Strategic Cold Store, located a few miles from the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.
All the vaccines coming into the country will be stored at the facility upon arrival before they are then distributed to the various states across the country.
The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at an extremely cold temperature of -70 °C in order to guarantee its efficacy after inoculation.
Addressing journalists at the facility on Tuesday, Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of the National Primary HealthCare Development Agency (NPHDA), said the country now has enough capacity to store the vaccines.
Shuaib said the ultracold chain storage was only required at the national level and six zonal stores where the vaccines can be stored for a longer period.
“Each of this ultra cold freezer has 700 litres capacity, that is a total of 2,100 capacity. The requirement for the 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines that will be available by the end of January/February is 500 litres, so we have enough capacity for the 100,000 doses,” he said.
The NPHDA boss explained that the Pfizer vaccine can be stored for five days at plus two to eight degrees outside of the ultra cold chain, which is suitable especially at rural areas.
He said: “Pfizer has informed us that the COVID-19 vaccine can be stored for five days at plus two to eight degrees outside of ultra cold chain, which is suitable especially at low level,” Mr Shuiab said.
“This means that the ultracold chain storage is only required at the national level and six zonal stores where the vaccines can be stored for longer period, the vaccines then will be transferred to lower levels using dry ices in isolated dry thermals when they are ready to be deployed.
“The private sector will be providing dry ices. This is what we need to keep the vaccines potent when they are taken out of the cold chain equipment. So we can move them to the states, LGAs and health facilities where they will be utilised.”
Shuaib noted that Nigeria already has storage facility for other approved vaccines and are making efforts to get some of them. This, he said, led to less investment on ultra cold chain equipment.ADVERTISEMENT
“Apart from the Pfizer vaccines, there are other vaccines in the portfolio of the COVAX and other vaccine candidates. Our plan is not to over invest in ultra cold chain equipment given that there are other vaccines that can be kept between + 2 and + 8 degree Celsius,” he said.
He revealed that the Federal Government would be focusing on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that requires + 2 to + 8 degree Celsius.