New photos show freezers full of coronavirus vaccines in the UK, as each of the four countries prepare to start administering the shots next week.
Images from Public Health England show specialized Covid-19 vaccine freezers lined up, with Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine doses awaiting distribution to the NHS.
The photos were taken in a safe location in England and do not include images of the vaccine bottles due to the difficulties opening the packaging.
The vaccine requires storage temperatures from minus 70C to minus 80C.
Preparations are underway to roll out the vaccine starting Tuesday in what has been described as “one of the greatest challenges the NHS has ever faced.”
There are a number of operational and logistical steps that must be taken before the vaccine can be administered to the public.
Vaccine distribution in the UK is handled by Public Health England and the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through systems specially adapted to those used for national immunization programs.
So far, Pfizer has shipped the first quantities of vaccines from Belgium that have arrived at safe locations in the UK.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said this is followed by a “post-delivery quality assurance process” to ensure the quality and integrity of the vaccine is maintained during shipment.
This process, which can take 12-24 hours, is performed by the specialist medical logistics company and is based on information about the shipment temperature data provided by Pfizer.
In the coming days, each box will have to be manually opened and unpacked, and temperature data will have to be downloaded from each box, according to the DHSC.
There are five packs of 975 doses per box and only sites with the necessary MHRA license can split the vaccine packs.
Once all checks are complete, the vaccine will be made available to order through authorized locations in the NHS, with approximately 50 locations in England so far.
The DHSC pointed out that delivering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is complex because it must be stored at very low temperatures and moved with care so that it will initially be administered from hospital hubs.
Thawing of the vaccine takes several hours and then additional time is required to prepare the vaccine for administration.
The DHSC said more than 1,000 local vaccination centers run by groups of primary care physicians will also soon come online and increase as more vaccines enter the country.
Phase one of the phased rollout of the vaccine will begin when it is distributed.
“Once we get more vaccine and split up the large packs, we will be able to make both larger vaccination centers and smaller arrangements through local pharmacies,” the DHSC said.