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Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Effective at Standard Freezer Temperatures

A pharmacist prepares a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination site at NYC Health + Hospitals Metropolitan, in New York, Feb. 18, 2021.

Pharmaceutical partners Pfizer and BioNTech said Friday a new study the companies conducted indicates their COVID-19 vaccine can remain effective when stored in standard freezers for up to two weeks.

In a statement posted on Pfizer’s website, the companies say they have submitted the new data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demonstrating their COVID-19 vaccine is stable when stored at -25°C to -15°C, temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators.

The new data would be a significant development. One of the initial drawbacks of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was that it was required to be stored in ultra-low temperature freezers not commonly found in standard clinics and pharmacies. The requirement added considerable expense to transporting the vaccine and storing and distributing it in less developed areas.

The company said it submitted the data to the FDA to support a proposed update to the U.S. Emergency Use Authorization. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in the statement the companies’ top priority has been to make their vaccine safe, effective and available to the most vulnerable people in the world. He said it is their hope the new data will give pharmacies and vaccination centers greater flexibility.

A separate study done in Israel indicates the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 85 percent effective after the first dose.

The study, published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet, was conducted on more than 7,000 Israeli health care workers, who were vaccinated at the Sheba Medical Center. Researchers saw an 85% reduction of symptomatic COVID-19 between 15 and 28 days after the single shot was given.

Overall that study showed infections, including those among asymptomatic patients, were reduced by 75 percent.