How to store and transport a COVID-19 vaccine requiring <-60°C

Pharma Tech Outlook: Pharma Tech Magazine

How to store and transport a COVID-19 vaccine requiring <-60°C

By Pharma Tech Outlook | Thursday, November 05, 2020

An innovative solution from TOWER Cold Chain Solutions

As COVID-19 vaccines near market, so the challenges associated with its storage and distribution become clearer, with one factor likely to be that several vaccines may require <-60°C, for both the finished product and associated APIs

This creates some very distinct issues


1. A working storage environment of <-60°C is harmful to humans so stringent health and safety measures will need to be taken at all times

2. <-60°Cstorage facilities currently don’t exist globally in the required quantity and cannot be built quickly enough

3. The cost of running and maintaining storage areas capable of preserving that amount of product at that temperature is unimaginable

4. Developing countries will find it hard to finance the building, maintenance and running of deep-freeze warehouses

5. The length of time the pharmaceutical product will need to be kept in a deep-frozen state is not known and therefore replenishing dry ice safely will become a major concern


1. Airlines have a strict 250kg dry-ice allowance for any one container and at the moment the size of containers that allow for a compliant<-60°C temperature are not big enough and therefore make transportation very expensive

2. Vaccines will need to be transported via land (and maybe sea) and therefore maintaining the <-60°C temperature and compliance during complex and arduous transit will be difficult

3. The removal of small amounts of vaccines (when required) will mean that the container will need to be opened and closed easily without breaching compliance and risking the loss of substantial amounts of product

TOWER’s R&D team has developed a solution

TOWER’s robust, reliable and reusable KTM42 double-pallet container has been adapted to store dry ice and maintain an internal temperature <-60°C

Richard Dudbridge, Global Sales manager at TOWER and one of the sponsors of the project, says, “We were approached by several pharma and 3PL clients to solve the problem of keeping apalletised container at <-60°C for 19 hours in transit and in storage at <-60°Cfor 5 days. We’ve now tested two pallets at <-60°Cfor 94 hours in transit and over 9 days in storage whilst still maintaining the airline compliance on dry-ice within a single container, so they are delighted”

This is a huge breakthrough for the cold-chain industry and will help governments, pharma and logistics companies plan ahead with some confidence that the issue of storage and transportation has been effectively addressed

“This new innovation will offer huge cost savings” Dudbridge added “we know that building and powering deep-frozen storage facilities is costly and prohibitive in rural areas. This solution allows for the current infrastructure to be used immediately at a fraction of the cost”

The benefits of the KTM42D don’t stop there. With its unique double-door, lock-and-load system and external data logger the loading of two pallets of product and the replenishing of dry ice in each KTM42D can be managed by two operatives in under five minutes without either having to enter the container at any point. This means that industry-standard levels of health and safety, and minimal contact with dry-ice, together with potentially unlimited product storage at below -65°C, can all be delivered at a fraction of the cost of running a deep freeze warehouse

This solution sets out to tick every box


1. Operatives can open, close and replenish KTM42D with dry ice from outside the container in under 5 minutes, reducing health and safety concerns

2. Global <-15°C - <-25°C infrastructure can be used to house, maintain and monitor multiple KTM42Ds turning them into <-60°C warehouses with each load lasting for up to 9 days without need of replenishment

3. The cost of running and maintaining storage areas capable of preserving that amount of product is greatly reduced and will only depend upon a ready supply of dry ice rather than vast amounts of energy

4. Developing countries and rural areas already have the infrastructure required to maintain this deep-freeze solution

5. The replenishing of dry ice is quick and effortless and compliance is kept throughout the process providing potential unlimited deep-freeze facilities


1. The KTM42D holds two full pallets of pharmaceutical product at <-60°C for 96 hours during transit using only the airline compliant 250kg of dry ice

2. The KTM42D is highly robust and passive, meaning that no human intervention is required during the 96hours transit. If transported in freezer environments (lorry reefers for example) the time at <-60°Cis extended to 9 days allowing transit into even the most difficult-to-reach areas

3. The removal of small amounts of vaccine as and when required is quick and easy and reduces risk to large amounts of wasted vaccine

Richard Dudbridge concluded “This really is a breakthrough the cold-chain industry has been looking for and ticks every box from transportation to storage globally. TOWER has always been known for innovation but in this instance we need to thank our clients for pushing us to look at new challenges and to see how our products can overcome them”

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