DEALS to buy over £5million worth of new super freezers to store Covid vaccines were struck only days ago – including one on Black Friday.
The Government rushed to place orders on the specialist fridges from firms across the UK after Pfizer’s vaccine was unveiled.
Huge chillers will keep the Pfizer/BioNTech inoculation at -70 degrees Celsius as the first of 800,000 doses are administered within days.
Health Minister Jo Churchill said 58 Panasonic TwinGuard freezers were sent all over the UK at a cost of £1.1million.
The specialist 729 litre, upright freezers can hold up to 576 standard 2” boxes of the doses and cost around £20,000 each.
The minister said the freezers could hold 5 million doses around the country at any one time.
Ms Churchill said: “The ultra-low temperature freezers are in the United Kingdom, fully operational, and located in national storage facilities both in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland, in readiness for the commencement of a COVID-19 immunisation programme.”
NHS England also secured a £3.3million worth of freezers from East Yorkshire company Scientific Laboratory Supplies Limited (SLS) in September, specifically to store the vaccine.
Public Health England (PHE) spent a further £580,000 on Eppendorf New Brunswick Cryocube freezers which cost £13,389 and Haier Biomedical freezers which cost £9,621 each from Wolf Laboratories.
On Black Friday last week PHE spent £29,985 on a freezer with the York-based firm.
Neither SLS or Wolf Labs, which is a subsidiary of SLS, wished to comment.
But one source confirmed the Friday purchase and said: “It is a changing landscape with things changing day by day. It is not something that is easy to plan.”
Pfizer has begun sending the first shipments of the 40 million doses bought by the Government.
They are arriving by truck on the Channel Tunnel or into airports in the UK where they are held for checks prior to distribution to key hospital hubs where the freezers are based.
A Health department spokesperson said: “Delivering the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is complex as it needs to be stored at very cold temperatures and moved carefully, so at first we will only be able to deliver it from ‘hospital hubs.”
The spokesperson added: “Despite the huge complexities, staff have been working to ensure that when it is approved and ready for use, the NHS is able to vaccinate from day one.
“The time between approval and deployment of a vaccine like this might typically be expected to take around a week, due to travel and extensive safety and quality control checks.”
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