Pharma CEO claims Ireland won’t have cold-storage issues for Covid vaccine

30 Nov 2020

Image: © Lakshmiprasad/

The CEO of Irish pharma storage firm Q1 Scientific claims there will be no storage concerns in Ireland for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine.

Even prior to news that the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine candidate may have an efficacy rate of 95pc, concerns have been raised over its storage. A potential challenge to the vaccine’s future distribution – if deemed safe to the public – is its need to be kept in ultra-cold storage at minus-70 degrees Celsius.

However, speaking on The Science of Business podcast, Q1 Scientific CEO Stephen Delaney downplayed these concerns. The Waterford company specialises in stability storage for the pharma industry and currently stores pharmaceutical samples for 11 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in the world.

“Cold-chain distribution in pharma is complicated, even in normal times, and right now Ireland will need to make available its cold-chain capacity to accommodate deliveries of the Covid-19 vaccine,” Delaney said. “However, if public services and the private sector all come together, there won’t be capacity storage issues within Ireland.”

‘Just in time’ manufacturing

When asked about the amount of storage facilities that will be required to store a potential vaccine in Ireland at minus-70 degrees Celsius, he added: “These [stability] chambers are quite small, but there are a lot of companies supplying these chambers into Ireland with the last 40 years and I really don’t think there is a big problem coming down the track in terms of capacity.

“In addition, these vaccines will be produced under ‘just in time’ manufacturing, therefore the stock that will come into Ireland from these companies will be on an ongoing basis. It is more likely that Ireland will get a percentage of the doses that are manufactured in January and the same in February and it will grow from there.”

Pfizer and BioNTech recently said they have developed specially designed, temperature-controlled thermal containers that use dry ice to ship their vaccine candidate. The containers can be used be as temporary storage units for 15 days by refilling with dry ice.

The Financial Times reported on Saturday (28 November) that the UK looks set to approve the companies’ vaccine this week, which would make it one of the first countries to approve a Covid vaccine. Trial findings are still awaiting peer review, but shipments of the vaccine could begin just hours after receiving approval from the UK regulator. Should this happen, the first doses of the vaccine could be given from 7 December.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic