Mass. Company Making Ultra-Cold Freezers to Store COVID Vaccine Seeing Huge Demand

To store the new mRNA vaccines being produced amid the coronavirus pandemic, Thermo Fisher Scientific is making ultra-low temperature freezers

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A Massachusetts company is playing a key role in the nation’s coronavirus response.

Waltham-based Thermo Fisher Scientific has already helped with testing and protective gear, but now the company is making freezers to store the vaccine.

One of the vaccines on the horizon made by Pfizer -- an experimental new kind of vaccine made using mRNA molecules -- has to be stored in extremely cold temperatures, minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit. After hearing that, engineers at Thermo Fisher started working overtime to produce the ultra-low temperature freezers needed to store them.

“This is not your at-home freezer. These are fit for purpose,” said Alex Esmon, the company’s general manager of cold storage.

Thermo Fisher has been making the freezers since the 1950s for life science and research purposes. Due to the need for vaccine storage, this year demand for the freezers is three times higher than usual, Esmon said.

“Right now we’re seeing unprecedented demand,” Esmon said. “But as soon as we saw MRNA vaccine, we started planning. We adjusted our operational approach. We adjusted our supply chain.”

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The units can store anywhere from 5,000 to 250,000 doses of the vaccine, depending on size. They range in price from $6,000 to more than $14,000.

“The products exist in hospitals today, but they have not existed in doctors' offices or clinics, so that’s the new application for this,” Esmon said.

With Britain becoming the first country to approve the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use and the Food and Drug Administration expected to follow, Thermo Fisher is receiving orders from all over, including Massachusetts.

“In Massachusetts, we have already placed many units in both public and private institutions,” Esmon said. “We are excited and very honored to be a part of the solution for our customers.”

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