Kathmandu, Sep. 6: The government is preparing to procure 8 to 10 Ultra Cold Freezers to store the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 in the temperature from minus 15-25 Degree to minus 60 -80 degrees Celsius.
Currently, there are only two Ultra Cold Freezers below minus degrees Celsius, one in Teku and the other is in Pathlaiya, with minus 15-25 degrees Celsius storage capacity in the country.
Upendra Dhungana, Public Health Administrator of the Management Division of the Department of Health Services, said that the plan is to procure 8-10 freezers at the earliest. It is estimated that up to 300,000 Pfizer vaccines can be kept in a fridge of 700-800 litres because the volume of Pfizer is less than other vaccines, so takes up less space in storage.
“Preparations to procure freezer are underway, but, it is not fixed from where it will arrive.” He said.
He further said that around 3.5 million children under the age of 12 to 18 in Nepal, that need the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. So, the government is striving to secure freezers to store the vaccines.
Out of two available freezers one is used to store the PCR Test kits and the other is kept at plus temperature to store other regular vaccines and sometimes, polio vaccine is stored maintaining minus degree Celsius temperature.
“Therefore, to store Pfizer which needs a minus 60 -80 degree Celsius, ultracold chain storage, 8-10 freezers are being procured.” He added.
Meanwhile, there are 27 freezers of 2-8 degrees Celsius. Vaccines are store in freezers and the cold chain is a chain that needs to be maintained in the whole process till one receives the vaccine.
Although it will take time for Moderna Vaccine, which needs to be stored at minus 15-25 degrees Celsius, to arrive it is expected that the Pfizer vaccine will arrive soon and Nepal is striving to acquire storage to store Pfizer which needs a minus 60 -80 degree Celsius, ultracold chain storage.
According to the Department of Health Services, Management Division, Pfizer will arrive in Nepal by February and Moderna by March 2022.
Dhungana said that the store centre with a temperature of 60 to 80 minus is there in lab and blood bank and veterinary. But, it is not enough.
According to him, the Pfizer vaccine can be stored at a temperature of minus 60 to 80 degrees for 6 months. But, as there is no provision to keep the vaccine at that temperature as of now, other storage options, and expansion of minus cold chain are being discussed.
Dhungana said, "The vaccine can be transported in a package called Thermal Sipper. The vaccine can be kept safe for up to 30 days if the thermal sipper is not opened and the top is filled with dry ice. You don't even need a fridge to do this if it is in the packet.”
In addition, the temperature can be kept at minus 15 to 25 degrees Celsius. The vaccine can be stored for up to two weeks. After that, it can be stored for 30 days at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius in Nepal.
“As all the vaccines against COVID-19 for children will not arrive all at once, the plan is to store them in the Central storage system. Then, the vaccine will be supplied as per need as soon as the vaccination campaign runs,” he said.
According to Bade Bahadur Thapa, senior pharmacist officer at the Department of Health Services (DoHS) Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has provided four freezers of 100-litre capacity to store Pfizer vaccine, which has arrived in Nepal but is yet to be fixed.