10 ultra-low temp freezers to be repurposed for Pfizer vaccine storage — Duque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13) — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the country has bought 10 ultra-low temperature freezers, which will be used to store COVID-19 vaccines from the US drugmaker Pfizer.

"Ang kasalukuyan po talagang tinututukan natin na medyo nagkukulang, ito pong [What we're currently lacking and focusing on acquiring now are these] minus 70 to minus 80 degrees Centigrade," Duque said in a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials on Wednesday.

"We imported 10 ultra-low temperature freezers at ipapa-repurpose ko nalang [I will have it repurposed] for vaccine use," he added.

Unlike other brands, Pfizer's vaccine needs to be stored in ultra-cold freezers with temperatures of about minus 70 degrees Celsius or below, which are not yet widely available nationwide. Adhering to the temperature requirements during storage and distribution is crucial in ensuring the vaccines' efficacy.

Because of this, Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the distribution of Pfizer vaccines may be limited to Metro Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City for now, as these urbanized areas can meet the storage requirements. The national government is also in talks with private firms to establish cold storage rooms and walk-in freezers.

"'Yung pagpunta naman po dito ng Pfizer ay in tranches, by the hundred thousand lang po. Hindi po yan in bulk na 20 million o 2 million kaagad, in tranches po yan," Galvez said.

"Gagawa po tayo ng tranche chart at synchronization matrix, i-synchronize lang po natin na pagdating, i-deploy natin kaaagad," he added.

[Translation: The arrival of Pfizer vaccines in the country would be done in tranches, which is by the hundred thousand. It will not be delivered in bulk of 20 million or 2 million. We will make a tranche chart and synchronization matrix to ensure that vaccines will immediately be deployed upon arrival.]

The Philippines has not yet formally secured vaccines from Pfizer, but Galvez earlier said the country may receive more or less 40 million doses from the American firm this year as they continue to finalize negotiations. Pfizer doses could also arrive this quarter if the Philippines' application for an early rollout under the World Health Organization's COVAX facility is granted.

Pfizer has already secured emergency use authorization from the United States and the United Kingdom, among other countries, and emergency use listing from the World Health Organization after its phase 3 clinical trial showed it was 95% effective in preventing infections after a person received two shots.