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Canadian military eyes ultra-low temperature freezers for coronavirus vaccine rollout

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: O’Toole questions Trudeau on freezer capacity for possible COVID-19 vaccine' Coronavirus: O’Toole questions Trudeau on freezer capacity for possible COVID-19 vaccine
Speaking in the House of Commons on Friday, Opposition Leader Erin O'Toole questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the government's plan to address a lack of freezer capacity for any possible COVID-19 vaccine, particularly ones from U.S. pharms giants Pfizer and Moderna which both recently released positive findings. – Nov 18, 2020

The Canadian military is looking to buy freezers that can store a coronavirus vaccine and other gear related to the pandemic at ultra-low temperatures.

It comes amid anticipation that Canadians could start getting vaccinated early next year, possibly between January and March.

In a request for proposal posted online on Thursday, the government says it is looking for suppliers that can provide portable ultra-low temperature freezers for storing a potential vaccine and patient swabs.

The portable freezers would be used in medical clinics, onboard military ships and during deployments.

It comes as the government is facing questions about how it plans to distribute a vaccine.

READ MORE: Airlines scramble to prepare for ultra-cold shipping of coronavirus vaccine

Some of the coronavirus vaccine candidates cannot be stored in normal freezers.

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Instead, candidates like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of -70 C to -80 C in order to protect the components of the vaccine.

Scientists have warned most hospitals, including those in major cities, do not have that kind of equipment and demand for ultra-low temperate freezers has spiked as countries rush to secure equipment needed to distribute successful vaccine candidates as soon as possible.

READ MORE: Canada’s coronavirus vaccine rollout — who will get it first?

Canada signed deals with several vaccine developers over the summer to secure millions of doses of the vaccines in 2021, subject to approval by health authorities. The deal with Pfizer, which produces the vaccine requiring ultra-low temperature storage, is for 20 million doses.

While no official plan has been released for vaccine rollout, the preliminary advice from the advisory body of experts helping to guide that decision is that healthcare workers, other frontline workers, and highly vulnerable people get it first.

— More to come

— with files from Global’s Marc-Andre Cossette.