Packaging and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Some ampoules with clear liquid. The vials contain Covid-19 vaccine. The vials are placed in a laboratory against a blue background

The focus for news about the COVID-19 vaccine is of course on scientists creating the vaccine and governments figuring out how to get the doses to the people who need them. But there should also be some awareness of packaging and the COVID-19 vaccine. Without innovative packaging, the vaccine might never have worked as well as it has.

Vaccine logistics

One of the biggest issues with the Pfizer vaccine has been the stringent temperature requirements. It has to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Special freezers for the purpose are not available everywhere — many rural areas in the United States can’t keep it that cold, and few options exist in developing countries.

Instead, mass vaccinations have to take place within a few days off delivery, while the vaccines are kept on dry ice.

At the same time, some parts of the vaccines production cycle require it to be kept at 500 degree temperatures. How can one package handle that kind of heat and that kind of cold? It required a completely new kind of glass: Valor, made by Corning. This is the first new type of glass approved by the FDA in more than a century.

In addition to its greater tolerance for extreme temperatures, Valor glass can also be filled faster on assembly lines because of its great strength. This new type of glass may turn out to be safer and more practical for many more products in the future.

New delivery mechanisms

Welsh researchers are working on a new kind of vaccine packaging that can provide a new vaccine delivery system. They’ve got a transdermal patch in progress. This would allow people to play the patch on their arms as they might a bandage or a nicotine patch, and receive the vaccine without an injection.

If this works, it could significantly speed up the process of delivering the vaccine. It would be a much cheaper way to vaccinate people, which would be especially important in developing countries. The patch will also test the effectiveness of the vaccine while it’s in place.

Not only would this approach benefit the COVID-19 vaccination efforts, it could revolutionize other kinds of vaccinations in the future as well.

Oral tablets, which are room temperature stable, and nasal sprays are also in development. Either could make the entire process of vaccination much simpler, faster, and less expensive.

It’s easy to overlook

Exciting and important new discoveries in medicine can easily overshadow new packaging, but new packaging can be a requirement to get the most out of the new discoveries.

No matter what other innovations come about, the precision and power of servo motors and their controls make everything possible. Something to keep in mind.

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