U.S. officials said today they quarantined doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in Alabama this week after something in the transportation process caused the storage temperature to get too cold.
A similar quarantine was announced for shipments to California, according to CNBC.
Pfizer’s vaccine requires a storage temperature of around minus 70 degrees Celsius. Vials of the vaccine are stored in trays, which carry a minimum of 975 doses each. Army Gen. Gustave Perna, who oversees logistics for the Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, told reporters that two trays of the vaccine that arrived at two separate locations in Alabama and California had to be returned to Pfizer after the temperature somehow fell to minus 92 degrees Celsius.
Perna said workers quarantined the vaccine and got a replacement shipment to Alabama and California. The quarantined vaccine “never left the truck,” Perna said during a news briefing Wednesday. “We returned them immediately back to Pfizer and we sent immediate shipments to replace those two trays.”
It’s unclear what caused the storage temperature to fall. Pfizer, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are all working to determine whether the formula can still be used when it reaches such low temperatures, according to Bloomberg.
Americans began receiving some of the first shots of Pfizer’s vaccine on Monday after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine Friday. Officials and medical experts had already acknowledged that Pfizer’s vaccine would present some new logistical challenge as it has to be stored at ultracold temperatures.
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Alabama this week, with three hospitals receiving it first and another 12 a day later. The Alabama Department of Public Health is not disclosing the hospitals that received the shipments due to security concerns. Alabama will initially receive 40,950 doses.
During the briefing, Perna said vaccine deliveries in the U.S. remain on schedule.
The federal government delivered 2.9 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine this week. Next week, the government plans to ship an additional 2 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine as well as 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine if cleared by the FDA, Perna said.