Pfizer (PFE -0.56%) and its German partner BioNTech (BNTX 0.58%) reported incredible efficacy data from a phase 3 trial for their mRNA coronavirus vaccine candidate. This news, paired with the equally impressive data from Moderna (MRNA -0.81%) about its candidate that takes a similar approach, inspired much hope around the world and injected optimism into the stock market.
The Motley Fool sat down with Dr. Jeremy Brown, author of Influenza: The Hundred-Year Hunt To Cure The Deadliest Disease In History and Director of Emergency Care Research at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Brown shared what investors should know about challenges with distributing this type of mRNA vaccine and the "cold chain."
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Corinne Cardina: Do you foresee any challenges with getting a vaccine to the masses? There's been a lot of noise made about the cold chain for the mRNA vaccine candidates. These drugs have to be kept insanely cold. Not all neighborhood pharmacies have the kind of refrigeration required, any thoughts on that? Is that something we should be concerned about?
Brown: Yes, that's right. People in the business of logistics called this the final mile problem or the last mile problem, which is you can build out your product, you can get it ready and distributing it down to the people who actually need it rather than having it locally or just the few distribution points. That's a big problem. This final mile approach is of course something that needs to be carefully thought out. I don't think it's a problem that it's insurmountable. But as you point out, the vaccine that was produced together with the German firm BioNTech, it has to be stored at something around minus 70 degrees Celsius or about minus 90 Fahrenheit. Now, that's a very cold temperature indeed. Other vaccines as people who know who have gotten that flu vaccine, for instance, this year will know that the flu vaccine is usually just kept in refrigerator. But it is certainly possible from my understanding of the capabilities of Pfizer, it's certainly possible to develop a storage unit that can indeed deliver a vaccine kept at this very cold temperature. Even it maybe possible to do this in other less industrial countries as ours, what we call third world countries, where the ability to keep the product cold might be more challenging. But my understanding is that even in that setting, the Pfizer is confident that it can keep the product cold enough for it to remain active if you like, and can start be given appropriately. It is a problem. It will be very interesting to see how it is played out. But I think that it's a problem that is not one that is instrumental.