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700 vaccine freezers under 1 roof at Pfizer in Flanders

As a European hub for the production and storage of millions of COVID-19 vaccines, the production site of American pharma giant Pfizer in Puurs (Flanders) will more than double its number of vaccine storage freezers by early 2021. “Together with a Pfizer site in the US, we expect to fully load 24 trucks every day,” explains Koen Colpaert, communications lead at Pfizer Puurs. As such, the two sites will transport 7.6 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine per day.

 700 vaccine freezers under 1 roof at Pfizer in Flanders

Key role in a vital logistics chain

Since March 2020, which is when Pfizer started developing its candidate COVID-19 vaccine together with German biotech subsidiary BioNTech, the pharma giant has been preparing for a major logistics tour de force: the refrigerated storage and distribution of millions of vaccines. Within this logistics chain, two Pfizer sites are playing key roles: one in Kalamazoo (US) and one in Puurs (Flanders).

In Kalamazoo,  Pfizer already houses 350 large storage freezers for vaccines on a site the size of an American football field. But the American company is expanding its capacity in Flanders to a much higher level. “We now have 325 storage freezers used to store vaccines until they are transported in containers with dry ice,” Colpaert explains. “By the beginning of 2021, that number will rise to about 700!”

No bigger than a suitcase

Pfizer developed its very own refrigerated container to deliver millions of vaccines safely and quickly to the world’s vaccination centers. One such container – no bigger than a suitcase – can store between 1,000 and 5,000 vaccine doses for a duration of ten days at a temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius. Each container is cooled using dry ice and its whereabouts can be continuously monitored via GPS.

From sites to airports to vaccination centers

Pfizer expects to fill 24 trucks with these refrigerated containers every day through the combined efforts of its Kalamazoo and Puurs sites. Combined, the two sites will transport some 7.6 million doses per day to various airports. One of these airports will undoubtedly be Brussels Airport in Flanders, which has been preparing intensively to fulfil its role as a COVID-19 vaccine distribution hub.

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Reported by
De Tijd newspaper
2 November 2020

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