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Pfizer COVID vaccine no longer needs ultra-cold temperatures, FDA says

The frozen vials now can be transported and stored for up to two weeks at the temperatures of freezers commonly found in pharmacies.

NEW YORK — U.S. regulators are allowing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped and stored at less-frigid temperatures, which should ease distribution and administration of one of the two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the country.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it’s allowing the additional option after reviewing new data from New York-based Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.

The FDA said the vaccine, which is shipped in frozen vials, now can be transported and stored for up to two weeks at the temperatures of freezers commonly found in pharmacies. That’s after Pfizer provided the FDA with data on Feb. 19 that showed its vaccine remains stable for up to two weeks at those standard freezer temperatures, minus 13 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 25 degrees to minus 15 degrees Celsius).

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Until now, the vaccine was required to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — from minus 112 degrees to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees to minus 60 degrees Celsius) — so Pfizer ships the vials in a special thermal container packed with dry ice to maintain that temperature range. That requirement meant vaccination sites had to either obtain expensive ultracold freezers, keep adding dry ice to the shipping container to keep to the correct temperature range, or administer all the doses in each shipment quickly so none spoiled.

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Travis Pittman contributed to this report.