MIDLAND, Texas — With the new COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, the challenge for hospitals has been how and where to store them. This is especially the case for certain versions of the COVID vaccines that need to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.
Midland Memorial Hospital is preparing for the day that those vaccines come by purchasing a new ultra-low freezer, made specifically for vaccine storage. It's something that has been in the works for a while now.
"The item that we’ve ordered is an ultra-low freezer so it’s designed to go down to -86 degrees Celsius and so we needed something like that to house the vaccine, but there’s one type of vaccine that’s going to be required to be stored at that temperature," Tim Warpula, MMH's Director of Pharmacy said.
If the hospital didn't have this freezer, they would not be able to distribute any vaccine that requires this level of cooling and could be forced to wait longer for a vaccine.
"Let’s say this ultra-low storage is what’s required for that first set of vaccine that comes out and is available. If we didn’t have the system, we would not be able to have that vaccine first, you know. We would have to wait until the other vaccines were available that require a warmer temperature for storage," Warpula said.
The need for this kind of deep freeze requires extra planning, which is something that Russell Meyers, CEO of MMH, says is necessary.
"It actually came to be with Mr. Meyers, our CEO and president, brought it up to me several weeks ago that 'hey, it looks like there’s going to be a vaccine coming in or that’s going to be on the market that requires a special storage capacity and we need to go ahead and start looking into it,'" Warpula said.
With this freezer, the hospital will be able to store several hundred doses of the vaccine at once.
"Right now, we’re gonna have this one, yes, and we'll be able to store about 600-700 of the doses of vaccine and then of course we expect to be able to order more once we run low on that," Warpula said.
While the main usage now will be for the COVID vaccine storage, once the pandemic is behind us, MMH will be able to use it for storing other products as well. MMH also expects that the freezer will arrive by December 3.