JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – Henry Ford Health System has finished installing six specialized freezers to store the COVID-19 vaccine, including one at Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital in Jackson.
The health system has been looking into those ultra-cold freezers since early summer. All five of its facilities are certified distribution sites for the new vaccine. The federal government plans to distribute millions of doses as soon as the FDA gives approval, which is expected this week.
The vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines, which is a relatively new technology. All vaccines work by showing the patient’s immune system what the virus looks like, which prepares it to fight off the real thing. Traditional vaccines accomplish this by injecting the patient with a weakened form of the virus that is easy to fight off. In contrast, mRNA vaccines deliver instructions to the patient’s cells on how to make a specific protein that resembles part of the virus. This has the same effect as exposing them to the real virus.
The downside of mRNA vaccines is that many of them must be kept extremely cold while in storage, often much colder than a typical freezer. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored below -94°F (-70°C), while the Moderna vaccine must be kept at a more manageable -4°F (-20°C).