Efforts to vaccinate the world’s population against Covid-19 got a boost Friday after research showed that some vaccines provide strong, one-dose protection, and that one of the vaccines can now be stored in normal freezers instead of ultra-cold ones.
The vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE generates robust immunity after one dose, according to new research out of Israel, and further data showed that the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca PLC vaccine similarly prevented Covid-19 when doses were spaced three months apart.
The findings could boost arguments in favor of delaying the second dose of the two-shot vaccine, as the U.K. has done. They could also have substantial implications on vaccine policy and distribution around the world, simplifying the logistics of distribution.
Should Pfizer’s request be granted by regulators, it would mean its vaccine would vastly expand access in rural regions around the world, as well as pharmacies and physician offices, according to industry experts and officials.
The label change would allow the shots to be kept essentially wherever providers have normal freezers, which would make it much easier to handle and potentially accessible to poorer countries with no access to ultracold distribution and storage equipment. Pfizer’s vaccine would also be able to return to ultracold temperatures after standard temperatures.
“This is excellent news and it will greatly improve the vaccine rollout,” said Ivan Dikic, director of the Institute of Biochemistry II at Goethe University Frankfurt. “The improved protocol will be much easier to handle for both rich and developing countries around the world.”
The requirement for ultra-cold storage of the shots has been a major obstacle for some providers and local health departments, prompting them in recent months to purchase special equipment. The restrictions have also contributed to the glacial pace of Europe’s vaccine rollout, making it complicated for the vaccine to be administered in general surgeries and nursing homes.