The freezers not present in the structure of the National Immunization Program, which are required for the storage of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against Covid-19, are widespread in research laboratories of Brazilian universities.
At universities, scientists store animal tissue, genetic material, cell culture and other elements in these rooms that are only stable at very low temperatures, such as B. Free radicals, which are produced by our organism.
However, technology is not limited to solely life sciences and health. There are also Ultrafreezers in cryogenics laboratories, which are usually located in the physics institutes of Brazilian universities. Scientists in this area, for example, are studying the behavior of materials at even lower temperatures: around –200 ° C.
The point is that no information is being gathered today about how many freezers there are in the country, how they are distributed and staffed. The Ministry of Health reported that it only has information about the structure of the SUS. Until the publication of this text, the MEC did not respond to Folha’s request. Not even the universities have this exact information.
“We’re trying to do this survey,” says Marcia Barbosa, physicist and director of ABC (Brazilian Academy of Sciences). She has led a group of scientists who argue that the MCTI (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation) is officially organizing this mapping. “The logistics of the Covid-19 vaccine will certainly be supported by the universities.”
According to Barbosa, physics courses at universities in states like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul and Pernambuco have facilities with temperatures below -70 ° C. “But these are large and permanent installations. We would have to adapt the technology to accommodate them portable, and from those research centers we could expand and distribute the technology, “he says.
The possibility of using the research structure of the universities to carry out a mass vaccination at -70 ° C has already been mentioned by Mayor Alexandre Kalil (PSD) from Belo Horizonte. Looking for support, he knocked on the door of the UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais) and last Wednesday met the dean of the university, Sandra Goulart Almeida (9).
In a statement, the university stated that “it is organizing to make the largest possible number of such devices available to aid emergency vaccination efforts against the coronavirus”. However, the university is still internally verifying the exact amount of equipment used on campus today. It is currently expected that the Belo Horizonte town hall will be supplied with three ultra-freezers.
Vaccines on the SUS calendar are now stored in refrigerators with temperatures between 2 ° C and 8 ° C and in scientific freezers with a temperature of -25 ° C. However, the Pfizer vaccine developed with German BioNTech requires unprecedented storage at -70 ° C.
According to the National Vaccination Surgical Plan against Covid-19, which was submitted to the STF on Saturday (12), the strategy for the use of the Pfizer vaccine has not yet been finalized precisely because “storage and transport conditions at extremely low temperatures are required”.
For Denise Garrett, Vice President of the Instituto Sabin, the strategy of using ultra-freezers for universities is feasible, especially at the beginning of the vaccination campaign. “At this point, the number of doses is still small,” he says.
Like other university research equipment, these freezers are purchased by scientists with funding from state and federal science funding agencies. This is done after a research project has been submitted and approved, a process that can take years.
Many stay in specific laboratories with research groups. Development agencies such as Fapesp, which finance science in the state of São Paulo, have encouraged the purchase of multi-user devices that are to be made available to the largest possible number of researchers (including those from outside São Paulo) “according to strict selection criteria”.
Today there is a multi-user freezer that was bought in 2006 with funds from Fapesp. He remains at the USP’s School of Public Health. Folha also found 24 repair records with resources from Fapesp from Ultrafreezers used in research at facilities in São Paulo. Repairs have been done since 2004 – the last three last year.
On December 7th, the day Pfizer announced negotiations for 70 million doses of doses, the federal government issued a decree allowing approximately R $ 59.5 million to purchase “traditional” vaccination equipment in the country, such as refrigerators Temperatures between 2 ° C and 8 ° C.
To give you an idea, if that amount were used to buy ultra-freezers, the value of which the National Health Fund suggests to be worth R $ 82,380 each, around 720 devices could be purchased.
With the approval for the emergency use of the vaccine by the American Pfizer in cooperation with the German BioNTech in the USA last Friday, the scientists heard by Folha expect that this publication could intensify the vaccination negotiations in Brazil.
Pfizer announced in a statement that it has developed a detailed logistics plan and tools to aid in the transportation, storage and continuous monitoring of the vaccine temperature developed in Brazil.
“To understand the challenges some vaccination programs could face, Pfizer developed innovative cardboard packaging that allows the vaccine to be stored on dry ice at -75 ° C for 15 days,” the text reads. The company adds that the immunizer can be stored in traditional refrigerators (2 ° C to 8 ° C) for up to five days.
“Other Latin American countries such as Chile, Peru, Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica, which in some regions even have similarities with the Brazilian territory, have already signed sales contracts and can carry out the vaccination without restrictions from the beginning of 2021, as soon as official approvals are available” the statement said.