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Protecting Vaccine Efficacy Throughout the Cold Chain

Chris Ashbaugh | Head of Healthcare

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

As has been widely publicized, COVID-19 vaccines come with more than a few challenges in terms of storage and distribution. When the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine became available, it was required to be stored at ultra-low temperatures between -80 to -60 °C (-112 to -76 °F). More recently, this ultra-cold storage requirement was removed from the Pfizer vaccine, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its storage and transportation at standard freezer temperatures for up to two weeks. The Moderna vaccine requires a frozen cold chain but can be refrigerated for up to 30 days before use. The Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, meanwhile, must be refrigerated but never frozen, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To further complicate an already high-stakes process, cold chain integrity must be maintained throughout multiple hand-offs among stakeholders, including suppliers, distributors and healthcare organizations. In the process, distributors and healthcare providers need to meet varying — but nonetheless strict — temperature requirements to move and store these vaccines. Any temperature excursions, even for a short period of time, can reduce or destroy a vaccine’s potency and/or safety.

Investing in the equipment required to safeguard vaccines would be a risky bet if it were left to untested technology. The good news is the technology supporting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is not unproven. In fact, Emerson has decades of experience providing the end-to-end temperature reliability that manufacturers, distributors and healthcare providers rely on to help protect vaccine efficacy.

Ensuring reliability in refrigeration system performance

All vaccines must be stored at precise temperature ranges. For this reason, refrigeration system reliability is essential to cold chain management. This is as true for the cold storage freezers at manufacturing sites as it is for the vaccine storage units at the points of vaccination and the refrigerated containers and reefer trucks used to transport vials. If any one of these cold storage units failed, hundreds to thousands of doses could potentially be wiped out.

Emerson’s highly reliable, energy-efficient Copeland™ compression solutions are designed to maintain more accurate setpoints and tighter control over temperatures. Our compression solutions deliver faster pull-downs to setpoint temperatures and maintain precise temperature control to provide greater energy efficiency without sacrificing system dependability. They also produce less wear and tear on system components, improving overall refrigeration system performance and lifespan.

Safeguarding efficacy through monitoring technologies

Monitoring solutions and internet of things (IoT) capabilities are proving foundational to maintaining temperature certainty.

At an enterprise level, Emerson offers technology platforms that provide nearly real-time visibility into refrigeration performance and help to protect the safety and efficacy of critical medicines. Long before the current public health crisis, our TempTrak® probes and enterprise monitoring solution have helped leading healthcare providers to achieve their patient safety and product integrity goals. In addition, Emerson’s ProAct™ Connect+ enterprise management software enables operators to monitor equipment performance and rapidly respond to equipment issues. Our Lumity™ E3 supervisory control and facility management system send alerts and notifications to provide continuous refrigeration monitoring that is essential to protecting vaccine efficacy.

For a more portable solution, we recently launched our Lumity wireless data logger to enable temperature monitoring of vaccine storage containers in accordance with the CDC’s requirements. This powerful, yet economical solution has a built-in information technology (IT) infrastructure to simplify deployment, including:

  • No Wi-Fi required for connectivity
  • No additional hardware or cloud software required for data storage and retrieval
  • Able to operate as a stand-alone solution or integrate with TempTrak software

To help ensure maximum temperature accuracy, the Lumity wireless data logger is available with different probes depending on the application, a standard temperature probe as well as a buffered ultra-low temperature (cryogenic) probe with or without a buffer sleeve. All told, it’s a quick and simple way to help healthcare providers of all sizes bring vaccine management into compliance.

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