KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22– The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine supply which arrived safely in the country this morning, must be stored properly before being injected into recipients.
Farahwahida Mohd Kasim, the senior principal assistant director of the pharmacy practice and development division (pharmaceutical logistics) at the Ministry of Health (MOH) said vaccines were sensitive to temperature.
“This means that if the product is stored at a certain temperature and is left exposed for a certain period of time, its shelf life can be reduced. If we look at all aspects of government planning, we are not planning it (the storage) for a day or two, but for months.
“We conduct a lot of internal discussions to ensure that the vaccine brought in is of quality, and has the potential to be taken care of throughout the product supply chain and be given to vaccine recipients in the best condition,” she said during a special Bernama TV programme aired yesterday.
Sunday morning, a special aircraft carrying the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah will be among the first recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday (Feb 24), which kicks-off the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme two days earlier than scheduled.
Elaborating further, Farahwahida said the Comirnaty vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech requires storage temperatures of between -60 and -90 degrees Celsius (°C) and must be administered within six hours of being removed from cold storage.
“It is a challenge for the storage and distribution process, but although difficult, it is not impossible as it is not the first time MOH is managing an immunisation programme, only this time it is being done on a larger scale, and the storage requirements are quite different from previous vaccines,” she said.
She said the MOH had also taken several approaches to ensure the vaccine supply was stored properly at each stage of its distribution before being administered, besides providing a systematic guideline for vaccinators to follow.