Expert explains how Pfizer's new advice for storing COVID-19 vaccine could impact shelf life

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Pfizer now says its COVID vaccine can be stored in regular lab freezers instead of the ultra-cold freezers being used right now. In addition, a new study finds that a single dose of the vaccine is 85 percent effective.

Deepak Sisodiya is Stanford's Administrative Director of Pharmacy Services, he believes this temperature change will expedite the distribution process.

But could this also have a negative impact on the vaccine efficacy?

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"Not a negative impact," explained Sisodiya.

Sisodiya says this change in temperature will effectively impact the Pfizer vaccine shelf-life.

"The movement from an ultra-cold temperature to a standard lab-grade normal refrigerated freezer environment shortens that. Historically with the ultra-cold temperature, it was as long as six months. The ability now to move it into a standard freezer shortens that but it does allow for up to two weeks," said Sisodiya.

On Friday, a new study out of Israel found that just one shot of the Pfizer vaccine is 85 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

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Since the coronavirus started spreading across the globe in late 2019, scientists have been looking for a vaccine. Now that vaccines are proven, it will ultimately be up to each state to determine who will get the vaccine, and when?

Luz Pena: "Since the shelf life is going to decrease. Do you project that counties are going to go through that first batch of Pfizer doses as soon as possible, rather than storing them for people who are waiting for the second dose?"

Deepak Sisodiya: "Theoreticalyl possible. I believe with our current state of vaccination efforts in California we really are trying to exhaust vaccines as fast as we can."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Senior Scientific Advisor on COVID-19 to the White House had this response to that controversial thought, "Even though you can get a fair degree of protection after a single dose, it clearly is not durable. We know that."
In Marin County, Woody Baker-Cohn is in charge of the ultra-cold freezers that are currently storing the last 390 Pfizer doses.

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"This freezer is in the neighborhood of about minus 80 degrees Celsius. Because the vaccine is obviously so precious we've got two freezers. The primary which has the vaccine and a backup incase something goes wrong," said Woody Baker-Cohn, Marin County office of Emergency Services.

If the main freezer begins to unfreeze Woody gets an automatic message to his phone. But he is feeling hopeful now that Pfizer announced its doses can be stored in regular freezers.

"It will allow us to distribute things more flexibly. Right now we have to take vaccine for the day just for one vaccination operation and to different sites. That can be a medical office or pharmacy," said Baker-Cohn.

If Pfizer's request is granted by regulators, it would make it easier for doses to be transported to rural places without the need of specialized freezers.

In hopes to increase more vaccine supply today President Biden visited the Pfizer Assembly line in Michigan where this company is promising to produce more batches in a shorter amount of time.

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