The special handling and storage of vaccines make immunization campaigns difficult

The movements must be orderly, precise and fast: not a second can be lost in manipulating the small vials that contain the most precious liquid in the world today.

Pfizer Biontech vaccines arrive by plane from Belgium and then by transport to regional centers, such as this one in Livorno, north of Italy’s Tuscany region, where they are carefully transferred to giant freezers located in a bunker under the hospital pharmacy. .

“We only have three minutes to take the dose out of the original Pfizer container and put it in the freezer to prevent thawing. The important thing is: avoid thawing and refreezing. We have to make sure the product reaches the freezers immediately, where it is it keeps at 80 degrees below zero “, Giuseppe Taurino, director of Pharmacy of the Sanitary Agency of Northeast Tuscany, explained to Euronews.

The vials are stored at freezing temperatures and then thawed for next day shipment to local centers, where they must be used within 5 days. Health workers are under pressure to ensure the smoothness and speed of the entire process.

The director of the Livorno Pharmacy, Francesca Azzena, pointed out that her work team has had to “adapt its times and procedures to the new needs” that involve handling the vaccine.

“As a group, we have a rapid capacity to adapt. However, the impact has been enormous, especially because of how quickly things happen and change,” said Azzena.

Timing is crucial. It can only take a few minutes outside the cold chain before the vaccine becomes unusable. No waste can be allowed, especially now with vaccine shortages, the biggest concern across Europe.

The current vaccine shortage has also put further pressure on regional health agencies throughout Italy, which have responded with a higher level of coordination.

“All the health agencies in Tuscany have contributed to the storage of vaccines and have made the vaccines available to the centers where the shortage is greatest. It is a kind of mutual help between health agencies at the regional level,” said Taurino

Europe hopes that the approval of the next vaccine, which does not need to be stored at such low temperatures, will help increase the number of people who can be vaccinated.