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Turkey takes measures to prevent Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine wastage

Turkey takes measures to prevent Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine wastage

Unlike the CoronaVac, an inactive coronavirus vaccine administered in Turkey, Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty jab against requires extra caution during storage. To prevent any potential loss, hospitals and agencies, overseeing the distribution of these shots, scramble to ensure that not a single dose is wasted. It involves a meticulous vaccination schedule and sometimes calling people in early for their appointment if someone else fails to show up.

Turkey started administering the Comirnaty, a Messenger RNA (mRNA) based vaccine, last month. Yet, it also triggered a debate whether the vaccine is as enduring as CoronaVac when experts announced that any no-shows at inoculation appointments meant the allocated jab could be spoiled. Indeed, Comirnaty is not as good as its inactive equivalent when it comes to shelf life at low temperatures. This forces authorities to rearrange vaccine supply plans but luckily the country’s experience in handling “cold chain” vaccine logistics facilitates the task.

Still, elaborate plans are needed to ensure no losses of Comirnaty jabs. In Istanbul, the Directorate of Public Health gave journalists a tour of their vaccine storage units and explained how the vaccines were delivered to hospitals from there.

Vaccine refrigerators capable of keeping jabs in temperatures up to minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit) and scheduling work are the biggest help to health care workers. The country also counts on a comprehensive vaccine tracking system which was available long before the coronavirus pandemic and allows the monitoring of vaccines from the moment they are shipped to warehouses to the moment they are injected into patients.

Dr. Önder Yel, an official at the vaccination department of the Directorate of Public Health, says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine presented them with a new challenge. “It requires strict rigor in terms of storage conditions and planning. You can store other vaccines in temperatures up to 8 degrees Celsius but this is not the case (with Comirnaty). You have to plan every move. But the most important thing for us is having citizens not skip their vaccination appointments,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Monday.

The vaccine tracking system allows authorities to see vaccine stocks at any given time at hospitals and accordingly, the correct amount of doses a hospital will need the next day are shipped the day before based on appointments. To prevent any problems that may arise over storage conditions, the vaccine is offered in limited means. While CoronaVac can be administered in all clinics and public and private hospitals across the country, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is confined to 38 public hospitals in Istanbul alone.