UW Medicine’s ultracold freezers ready for COVID-19 vaccine

SEATTLE — The Washington State Department of Health announced it expects to get nearly 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine this month.

The doses will be divided up between Pfizer (219,000 vaccines) and Moderna (182,000 vaccines). The Food and Drug Administration has a meeting on Thursday to discuss the Pfizer vaccine, and is expected to give emergency use authorization soon after.

Washington is gearing up to receive the vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine requires ultracold storage at -80 degrees F.

Today, University of Washington Medical Center showed off one of the special freezers it bought to hold the vaccine.

“Since the beginning of COVID, there’s been one complicated challenge after another, and this has just been the next one.” said Michael Alwan, Director of Pharmacy, UW Medical Center.

He’s been getting the hospital ready to receive the vaccine. “We know that the trays they come in will be on dry ice; that will start the clock as soon as those cases come in, and we know we either need to get those into an ultracold freezer, or the storage of the vaccine in those boxes will be good for about five days unless we add additional dry ice.”

UW Medicine will use the first doses for front line health workers.

Operation Warp Speed is ready to send out the doses when FDA gives emergency use authorization.

“We will start moving vaccine in 24 hours,” said Gen. Gustave F. Perna, Operation Warp Speed at the Vaccine Summit at the White House. Shipping companies McKesson, FedEx and UPS showed how they’ll track the location and temperature of each shipment.