Vietnam prepares super-cold storage for Covid-19 vaccines

By Ngoc An   February 21, 2021 | 10:31 pm PT
Three freezer units have been set up in HCMC, Da Nang and Hanoi to simultaneously store three million doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

Vietnam Vaccine JSC (VNVC), importer of Covid-19 vaccines to Vietnam, was licensed in January to operate three super cold facilities to store Covid-19 vaccines at temperatures ranging from minus 86 to minus 46 degrees Celcius.

Each freezer has a defrosting room with temperatures kept at minus 8 degrees Celsius to ensure vaccines are safely thawed prior to usage.

Tran Thi Trung Trinh, quality control director at VNVC, said in mid-2020 it had imported equipment and built an ultra-cold chain storage system to prepare for Covid-19 vaccine imports to Vietnam.

Using cold gas and cascade refrigeration, involving two or more vapor-compression cycles with different refrigerants, VNVC's super-cold storage system is equipped with an GSM alarm system, a wireless security product and remote device control.

All cold and ultra-cold storage facilities are equipped with high-tech on-site and remote temperature monitoring systems.

The ultra-cold storage freezers at the Vietnam Vaccine Joint Stock Company (VNVC). Photo by VNVC

Ultra-cold storage units operated by Vietnam Vaccine JSC (VNVC). Photo by VNVC.

The Health Ministry last week had approved the import of 204,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine within this month to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

It would mark the first batch of 30 million vaccine doses Vietnam had previously ordered from Swedish-British developers AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

The nation has also negotiated with Covax, a global mechanism for developing, manufacturing and procuring Covid-19 vaccine candidates that help member countries access vaccines as they become available, to secure 30 million vaccine doses this year to cover 70 percent of its 98-million population.

It is also stepping up negotiations with the U.S.’s Pfizer and Moderna, along with other vaccine manufacturers in Russia and some other countries to ensure a total 150 million vaccine doses for 2021.

Vietnam has four domestic Covid-19 vaccines under development by Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology JSC, the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals, Vaccine and Biological Production Company No. 1 and the Center for Research and Production of Vaccines and Biologicals.

Bui Kim Khanh, director of VNVC, said the company is capable of providing four million Covid-19 vaccine doses per month.

There are about 11 Covid-19 vaccines currently approved by the European Drug Administration (EMA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and emergency licensing countries, with 237 other vaccines under study.

Most vaccines require storage at 2-8 degrees Celsius but others like those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna need to be stored and transported at temperatures lower than minus 80 degrees Celsius to minus 20 degrees Celsius, making the implementation of vaccination in many countries difficult.

Vietnam is still busy handling the ongoing community outbreak that broke out on Jan. 28 that has since infected 791 in 13 cities and provinces. The epicenter of northern Hai Duong Province has so far accounted for as many as 611.

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