Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) Sunday urged the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to set up adequate cold storage facilities for COVID19 vaccine.
"Most COVID19 vaccines need extremely cold temperature for storage and transportation," DAK President and influenza expert, Dr Nisar ul Hassan said in a statement.
"Recently, Pfizer vaccine has been found to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID19 infection, raising hopes of a potential end to the nearly year-long pandemic," he said in the statement. "The vaccine which is based on a novel technology that uses synthetic messenger RNA to activate the immune system against the virus needs to be kept at minus 70 degree Celsius or below to ensure the vaccine remains potent and safe."
The DAK president said that this created a challenge for distribution and storage as most hospitals do not have storage facilities for a vaccine at that ultra-low temperature.
"Without a proper cold chain facility, vaccine faces the risk of being exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range, resulting in reduction in potency and wastage," he said in the statement. "Thus, without a cold chain facility, distributing these vaccines would not be possible."
Dr Nisar said that there was a need to create infrastructure and put in place logistics required for storage before the vaccine becomes available for public use expected by 2020 end.
"Specialized freezers, known as ultra-cold freezers that go down to minus 80 degree Celsius are needed for storage and transportation of the vaccine," he said in the statement.
The DAK president said COVID19 vaccine was a two-dose schedule with the second dose to be given 21 days after the first dose.
"The maximum effectiveness of the vaccine was observed seven days after the second dose which means the protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccine," he said. "With infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing overcapacity and economies struggling to reopen, we now have a remedy in offing."
Dr Nisar said that while the vaccine showed extraordinary early results, how long the protection would last remained to be seen.
"Till the vaccine becomes available, people should continue with the best tools that we already have – social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands," he said in the statement.