Senegal’s lack of cold storage limits COVID vaccine options

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Senegal does not have the capacity to store Covid-19 vaccines at ultra-low temperatures and prefers to receive vials that can be kept for longer time under ordinary refrigeration, the head of the country’s vaccination programme said on Monday.

A lack of cold storage means Senegal would only be able to keep vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University by China or Russia in the long term, as they do not require a deep freeze, Ousseynou Badiane said.

Those being distributed by Moderna, which require storage at minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 F), and Pfizer and BioNTech which need to be kept at -70 degrees Celsius are less desirable.

Senegal could store the Moderna vaccine for 30 days and that of Pfizer for seven days, but would get spoilt afterward, Badiane added.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines “are not our first choice. Our first choice is the vaccine that fits easily into the system that exists, that doesn’t require major investment,” Badiane said.

“If the vaccines are not used (in the right time frame) that would be an enormous waste.”

The situation in Senegal highlights the problems that poorer countries with hot climates face in storing and distributing vaccines, often in rural areas with unreliable power supplies.

Millions have already received inoculations in Western countries and China, while Senegal is awaiting vaccines through the World Health Organization-backed global COVAX scheme. This programme is helping to finance deliveries to 92 developing nations with limited or no means to buy vaccines on their own.

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Olajumoke Adeleke

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