POTSDAM — The St. Lawrence Health System has obtained and installed an ultra-cold freezer capable of maintaining Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, a critical move that will likely help vaccine distribution in the region.
The new freezer is likely the only ultra-cold device in the tri-county region capable of storing the Manhattan-based drugmaker’s vaccine, which must be maintained at minus 70 degrees Celsius, for long periods of time. Officials in Jefferson and Lewis counties have indicated they aren’t aware of any existing ultra-cold freezers.
St. Lawrence County Board of Health President Dr. Andrew F. Williams said during a meeting of the body last month that both St. Lawrence Health System and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg were in the process of purchasing ultra-cold freezers.
Earlier this week, the state indicated it would be delivered about 170,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in mid-December, but details on how those will be distributed amongst counties have yet to be disclosed. While it is possible to maintain the vaccine using shipping containers developed by Pfizer, the ultra-cold freezer will alleviate many logistical uncertainties with that process.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday afternoon on a press call with reporters that the first round of vaccine distribution would be coordinated with a federal program and would be focused on nursing home staff and residents. Guidance previously developed by the state indicates medical professionals who directly interface with patients are also in the first phase of groups to receive the vaccine.