Support The Moscow Times!

Russia to Freeze-Dry Coronavirus Vaccine to Avoid Distribution Challenges – Reuters

The Sputnik V vaccine's liquid form must be stored at minus 18 degrees Celsius or below to maintain its stated 92% efficacy. Zuma / TASS

Russia will transition to primarily freeze-dried doses of its coronavirus vaccine by spring as a workaround to the logistical challenges of transporting liquid doses at controlled temperatures, Reuters reported Monday. 

The Sputnik V vaccine's liquid form must be stored at minus 18 degrees Celsius or below to maintain its stated 92% efficacy. Vaccine storage and transport issues have become a concern after U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech announced that their vaccine, shown to be 90% effective, can only survive at minus 70 C.

According to Reuters, Russia has been testing a process of “turning liquid Sputnik V into a dry, white mass that can be stored at normal fridge temperatures” of 2 C to 8 C, which is then diluted and injected.

Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) that markets Sputnik V, said that trials showed the “same” immune response to freeze-dried vaccines as to liquid forms.

He added that “a large proportion of doses, if not a majority,” will be freeze-dried starting from February.

Russia plans to produce 2 million doses of Sputnik V by the end of 2020, then ramp up production to 6 million doses per month in spring, officials estimate.

Russia has already begun vaccinating a select group of medics and teachers in far-flung regions in parallel with post-registration clinical trials in Moscow. It has also exported Sputnik V to Belarus, Venezuela, India and the United Arab Emirates.

A late-September test of the supply chain to every Russian region showed that special temperature-controlled containers for liquid Sputnik V doses could maintain a consistent temperature of minus 18.5 C for up to four days, Retuers reported.

“You can’t change the temperature by even half a degree, not even for a minute or a second,” Oleg Baykov, the head of the Moscow logistics and courier firm Biocard which tracked the movements, told Reuters.

We’re like the Spetsnaz [rapid deployment forces] of the world of medical distribution,” he was quoted as saying.

Read more

Independent journalism isn’t dead. You can help keep it alive.

The Moscow Times’ team of journalists has been first with the big stories on the coronavirus crisis in Russia since day one. Our exclusives and on-the-ground reporting are being read and shared by many high-profile journalists.

We wouldn’t be able to produce this crucial journalism without the support of our loyal readers. Please consider making a donation to The Moscow Times to help us continue covering this historic time in the world’s largest country.