CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cleveland Clinic “freezer farm” of 16 ultra-cold storage units is ready to receive shipments of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as one is approved, the health system said Friday.
The freezer farm, which could begin storing doses of a vaccine in the next few days, features rows of ultra-cold storage units inside a secure area. The freezers will be monitored around the clock, the Clinic said.
The Clinic shared video of the freezer farm on Friday.
The freezer farm is needed because a vaccine developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech must be stored at extremely low temperatures, around minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Another vaccine developed by Moderna must be stored around minus 4 degrees.
The Clinic has been planning for the vaccine for months due to the logistical issues involved in storing, distributing and administering it, the health system said.
The Pfizer vaccines requires special care, said Jeffrey Rosner, the executive director of pharmacy sourcing and supply chain analytics in the Clinic’s Department of Supply Chain Management.
Upon arrival of the vaccines, Clinic workers will check thermo-scanners to ensure the vaccines stayed ultra-cold in transit. The workers will then count the number of doses in each shipment and put them in a freezer, Rosner said in a video statement released by the Clinic.
“Once that product comes in, we have to get it into the ultra-cold freezers as soon as possible. And that’s actually the easy part,” Rosner says in the video.
The Clinic also has extra ultra-cold freezers on hand in case any of the 16 freezers fail.
Workers will only have three minutes when they need to take those vaccines out of the freezer so they can be prepared for patients. They then need to close the freezer and keep it shut for two hours, Rosner said.
The vaccines are then refrigerated in units that are commonly available in hospitals. They can remain in those common refrigerators for up to five days.
Doses are then transported to sites where they can be administered to patients. They’re mixed together so they can be injected and must be used within six hours, Rosner said.
The Clinic and MetroHealth are among the first 10 sites that Ohio has chosen to send vaccine shipments. The first doses will be given to high-risk health care workers, DeWine has said.
A U.S. government panel on Thursday endorsed widespread use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, so the Food and Drug Administration could issue an emergency use authorization for that vaccine in the next few days. The Moderna vaccine is also seeking an EUA, and officials have predicted it could be available later this month.