Arizona medical expert says there could be challenges in distributing COVID-19 vaccine

Despite news on Nov. 9 that a COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective, it is important to note that it still could be several more months until it's widely available, and there are some potential issues that come with it.

The vaccine in question, made by Pfizer, needs to be stored in an extremely cold environment, and if it is going to be distributed, a lot of work needs to be done to make sure it is stored properly.

"The challenges with this vaccine is it has to be stored at -94 degree," said Dr. Shad Marvasti, Director of Public Health at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. "Most vaccines are stored at 35°F to 45°F, in a standard refrigerator."

Dr. Marvasti says most clinics don’t have the refrigerator type that is needed to get to a -94° temperature. He says this could cause issues in terms of distribution and maintenance of this vaccine.

"You get into a situation of rationing care, and that’s something we don’t want to get into," said Dr. Marvasti. "There needs to be a national and state coordinated effort to make sure the resources are there.”

Dr. Marvasti says the next steps would be to act proactively. Freezer farms and banks will need to be created in parts of the country, in an effort to make sure access isn’t an issue.

Despite the challenges, Dr. Marvasti says the news on Nov. 9 is still a step in the right direction.

"One piece is great, but it doesn’t solve all of our issues, so let’s be optimistic but let’s be cautious," said Dr. Marvasti.

While the preliminary results from Pfizer offer hope, the trial is still ongoing, and Dr. Marvasti says even a great vaccine doesnt replace the need for mask wearing at this time.