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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Beyond Cold

Without a doubt, 2020 was an unusual year. The SARSCoV-2 pandemic reshaped how we work, live, learn, and interact at every level. The global response, however, was unprecedented. The imperative to contain the virus pushed the vaccine industry into the public spotlight and the outcome was disruptive: a new generation of vaccines emerged that has redefined immunisation strategies.

A New Era in Vaccine Storage

Vaccines based on novel mRNA and viral vector technologies are in line to bring the world back to normalcy. Developed, tested, and approved in record time, these vaccines have changed how industry produces, manages, and – above all – moves immunisations through the cold chain from manufacturing sites to anxiously waiting end users. Within the span of just 11 months, the transport and storage of vaccines at -70°C became a global priority. Before last year, ultra-low temperature (ULT) had only been used for the highly localised delivery of trial vaccines during Ebola outbreaks.

Until now, most vaccines were commonly stored between 2°C and 8°C worldwide. Consequently, the existing cold chain infrastructure built on standard refrigerators and freezers was insufficient to accommodate these new ULT storage needs. In anticipation and support of these new vaccine modes, and facing the largest immunisation campaign in human history, cold chain infrastructure is expanding to reach far below sub-zero temperatures and adding storage facilities to accommodate massive numbers of doses.

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Dr Alex Esmon is Senior Director/General Manager for Cold Storage at the laboratory products division of Thermo Fisher Scientific. With a PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Missouri, Columbia, US, Dr Esmon has over 13 years of experience in industry and has overseen almost all aspects of managing products for cold storage and cryopreservation.
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