Faizel Patel – 18/11/2020
While South Africans hope a COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled-out soon, Bhekisa Centre for Health Journalism’s Aisha Abdool Karim says the country may not have the infrastructure to store the vaccine.
Karim was speaking to Radio Islam on Tuesday about whether South African may be ill-equipped ahead of the rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine.
Drug companies Pfizer and BioNTech firm Moderna are ahead of the pack after developing a vaccine showing a 90% efficacy.
However, South Africans will in all probability not be able to benefit from this development as the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored below freezing temperatures of minus-70 degrees Celsius while Moderna’s need to be stored at minus 20 degrees Celcius.
Karim says freezing temperatures requirements are to ensure the vaccine does not degrade and stay at its more effective level.
She says South African will need a conducive infrastructure to store and transport the vaccine to various healthcare facilities throughout the country.
“Minus seventy degrees Celsius is not a standard temperature that freezers would go to. In fact these are special freezers that basically we would need to buy and put into hospitals and get into different hospitals in what is a widescale rollout of the Pfizer vaccine and these are quite expensive freezers.”
However, Karim says there is hope for South Africa.
“There is potentially some hope in the form of Moderna’s candidate which is a slightly temperature. It is still frozen, it needs to be kept at minus twenty during transport and long-term storage. But I think realistically, because it still needs to be transported at minus twenty which may note be attainable for South Africa, our best choice may be in the form of other candidates which are more stable at higher temperatures.”
Karim says the US and European Union having been buying up millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna.
Listen to the interview with Aisha Abdool Karim