With vaccine deliveries slowing down across Europe, every drop counts – and when supplies do arrive, time is of the essence.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at extremely low temperatures, and any glitch in the cold chain can ruin a batch.
The vials arrive by plane from Belgium and then by courier to regional hubs, like one in the Italian city of Livorno, where they are stored in giant freezers inside a bunker underneath the hospital pharmacy.
“We have only three minutes to remove the product from the original Pfizer packaging and take it to the freezer in order to prevent the product from thawing,” says Giuseppe Taurino, pharmacy director at Tuscany’s North-West Health Agency.
“We have to make sure the product gets immediately to the freezers, where it is stored at minus 80 degrees.”
Pharmacy workers then gradually defrost the vials to ship them to local vaccination centres, where they must be used within five days.
Watch Luca Palamara’s report for more on the logistical challenges behind the vaccine rollout.