It’s one of the biggest logistical challenges in recent history: How will the millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine that must be maintained in extremely cold temperatures be shipped quickly across continents and oceans?
One company is using its experience with tuna as a guide.
Thermo King – which revolutionized food transportation by advancing temperature-controlled shipping before World War II – works with pharmaceutical companies, governments and logistics companies to ensure vaccines are preserved while they travel to clinics and hospitals. To achieve this, they recycled the containers normally used to transport fresh tuna to Japan, which required similar freezing conditions.
“We took this product and modified it,” Francesco Encalza, Head of Thermo King EMEA, told CNN Business.
Encalza said the tuna should be stored at -60 ° C, or -76 ° F, to preserve its quality and deep red color when it arrives at supermarkets and restaurants. Coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech should be stored at -70 ° C, or -94 ° F, during transportation.
So, Thermo King, which is part of Ireland-based Trane Technologies, has made some adjustments, adding extra insulation and modifying the cooling system until it gets colder. Now, each 20-foot container can carry 300,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine – the first dose approved for use by Western countries after rigorous testing – by land or sea. Some of them have already sold out and are making their way around the world.
Encalza said it usually takes years to develop this type of innovation.