SRINAGAR — Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Sunday urged authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to set up adequate cold storage facilities for COVID-19 vaccine.
“Most COVID-19 vaccines need extremely cold temperature for storage and transportation,” said DAK President and influenza expert, Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
“Pfizer vaccine recently has been found to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, raising hopes of a potential end to the nearly year-long pandemic,” he said.
“The vaccine which is based on a novel technology that uses synthetic messenger RNA to activate the immune system against the virus needs to be kept at minus 70 degree Celsius or below to ensure vaccine remains potent and safe,” he said.
DAK President said this creates a challenge for distribution and storage as most hospitals do not have storage facilities for a vaccine at that ultra low temperature.
“Without a proper cold chain facility, vaccine faces the risk of being exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range, resulting in reduction in potency and wastage,” he said, adding, “Thus, without a cold chain facility, distributing these vaccines would not be possible.”
Dr Nisar said that we need to create infrastructure and put in place logistics required for storage before the vaccine becomes available for public use which is expected by the end of this year.
Specialized freezers, known as ultra-cold freezers, that go down to minus 80 degree Celsius are needed for storage and transportation of the vaccine.
He said COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose schedule with the second dose to be given 21 days after the first dose. The maximum effectiveness of the vaccine was observed seven days after the second dose. That means protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccine.
“With infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing overcapacity and economies struggling to reopen, we now have a remedy in offing,” said Dr Nisar, adding, “While the vaccine shows extraordinary early results, how long the protection will last is to be seen.”
“Till the vaccine becomes available, people should continue with the best tools that we already have – social distancing, wearing masks and washing your hands,” he said.