A very cold South Korean warehouse prepares to store Pfizer vaccine

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Some rooms in the coldest warehouse of Korea Superfreeze Inc are so cold that a cup of warm water thrown into one of them will instantly turn into ice.

The facility is located 65 km (40 miles) below Seoul and has cooler temperatures than Antarctic winters, and the facility will be the best place, perhaps only, in South Korea suitable for storing large quantities of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the president says. Company CEO Kim Jin Ha. .

“Once we heard about the Pfizer vaccine, we started preparing … the other options will not work,” Kim told Reuters, adding that the depot’s use of LNG to keep temperatures low is more than electricity.

He said warehouses that use electricity would struggle to maintain the -70 ° C (-94 ° F) that the vaccine requires for storage and carry the risk of overheating during power outages.

The company, backed by Goldman Sachs and SK Holdings Co Ltd, has been in talks with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency since early November, and although nothing has been determined yet, expectations are high that it will win a contract.

Kim said the agency asked Korea Superfreeze to provide plans and cost estimates for vaccine storage and distribution, including how to handle a scenario in which vaccines are shipped to 260 different locations.

South Korea arranged to buy 20 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

The country also has deals for 20 million doses of both vaccines developed by Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc / University of Oxford, and another 4 million doses of Johnson & Johnson.

In total, this will be enough to vaccinate 34 million people in a country of 51.8 million, with shipments expected to begin no later than March.

However, Kim said, it was unclear to him whether the agency would use the company to obtain vaccines other than Pfizer, which has less demanding cold storage requirements. Moderna vaccine can be stored for up to six months at -20 ° C, while AstraZeneca vaccine only needs normal temperatures in the refrigerator.

To accommodate Pfizer vaccine, Korea Superfreeze plans a dedicated walkway and elevator so that there is no interference from outside temperatures. Once confirmed, construction will begin, which could take 2-3 months.

Kim said the warehouse also has 220 closed circuit cameras that monitor shipments around the clock.

He added that South Korea and Japan were the only two countries that had LNG facilities that could provide storage at these temperatures, and that the warehouses in Japan were much smaller and located in remote places due to earthquake risks.

Generally speaking, Korea Superfreeze rooms that are able to store goods at -70 ° C add up to 1,600 square meters (17,222 square feet). But it is still not clear how much is needed because the company has not yet verified the size of the containers that will carry the vaccines and how much will be shipped to South Korea each time.

Kim said, however, that some regular customers of storage facilities might have to be bothered.

“For tuna and other commodities that are kept here at -60 degrees, we will have to ask for their permission, compensate them for that and get them out of here.”


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