A German biotech firm says its coronavirus vaccine candidate can be safely stored in a standard fridge for up to three months, possibly skirting a major logistical hurdle when it comes to distribution.
In a press release posted Thursday, CureVac said its mRNA-based vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, remained stable and within defined specifications for at least three months when stored at 5 degrees Celsius, and up to 24 hours as a ready-to-use vaccine when stored at room temperature.
“Transport and storage of vaccines requiring ultra-low temperature setups to keep them stable, has been the topic of intense discussions and concerns in terms of feasibility, added costs and wastage,” Dr. Florian von der Mulbe, chief production officer of CureVac, said in the news release.
“We are very encouraged by the emergency stability profile of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate compatible with standard fridge-temperature storage as well as a required room temperature application,” von der Mulbe continued. “This compatibility has the potential both to enable decentralized storage and to significantly facilitate large-scale vaccination efforts during the current pandemic.”
The vaccine, which is said to be nearing Phase 3 clinical trials, would offer an alternative to Pfizer’s mRNA candidate, which was found to be 90% effective against the coronavirus in trials but requires very low-temperature storage.
Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius or below, and breaking the cold chain could render it useless, creating a logistical hurdle for those in charge of distribution. In countries with intense heat and regions with spotty electricity, or for health systems unable to afford high-quality freezers, concerns about the practicality of the vaccine are mounting.
Pfizer’s vice president for biopharma global supply chain recently said the company plans to use its own system to deliver the vaccine directly to the point of vaccination, but transporting it safely would still require meticulous planning, or as one expert called it, a “Herculean task.”
“Beyond the challenge of physically transporting the vaccine by air and land to distribution centers across America and internationally, there are the additional obstacles of keeping the vaccine at sub-zero temperatures and monitoring deliveries for theft,” Andrew Peterson, assistant professor of philosophy at George Mason University, previously told Fox News.
The CureVac vaccine, which uses the same messenger RNA as Pfizer’s product and Moderna’s candidate, is still being evaluated in a stability study, the company said.