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Are there special requirements for storing the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Depending on the manufacturer, there are specific requirements for storing vaccines. Knowing these requirements prior to requesting your vaccine is essential, so you can choose the one that is best suited for your environment.

At the time of this writing, three manufacturers, Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J/Janssen are approved for distribution under emergency use authorization.

  • Pfizer vaccine storage requirements:
    • Ultra-low-temperature freezers, which are commercially available and can extend shelf life for up to six months.
      • Must be shipped and stored at -70 degrees Celsius (minus 94°F)—significantly below the standard for vaccines of 2-8 degrees Celsius (36-46°F).
    • The refrigeration units required are commonly available in hospitals.
    • The vaccine can be stored for five days at refrigerated 2-8°C (36-460) temps.
    • The Pfizer thermal shippers, in which doses will arrive, can be used as temporary storage units by refilling with dry ice, for up to 15 days of storage.
    • After storage for 15 days in the Pfizer thermal shipper, vaccination centers can transfer the vials to 2-8°C (36-46°F) storage conditions for an additional five days, for a total of 20 days.
    • Once thawed and stored under 2-8°C (36-46°F) conditions, the vials cannot be re-frozen or stored under frozen condition.
  • Moderna vaccine storage requirements:
    • The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures common to many physician offices, pharmacies, and hospitals.
      • Vaccine remains stable for 30 days at 36°F to 46°F: “the temperature of a standard home or medical refrigerator.”
    • For basic vaccination storage guidelines check out the CDC’s resources.
  • J&J/Janssen vaccine storage requirements:
    • The Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is initially stored frozen by the manufacturer, then shipped at 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F). If vaccine is still frozen upon receipt, thaw at 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F). If needed immediately, thaw at room temperature (maximally 25°C/77°F). At room temperature (maximally 25°C/77°F), a carton of 10 vials will take approximately 2 hours to thaw, and an individual vial will take approximately 1 hour to thaw. Do not refreeze once thawed.
    • Store unpunctured, multi-dose vials of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine at 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F) and protect from light. Do not store frozen.
    • Unpunctured vials of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine may be stored between 9°C to 25°C (47°F to 77°F) for up to 12 hours.
    • After the first dose has been withdrawn, hold the vial between 2° to 8°C (36° to 46°F) for up to 6 hours or for up to 2 hours at room temperature (maximally 25°C/77°F). Discard the vial if the vaccine is not used within these times.
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All Curi recommendations are based on current CDC criteria at the time of publication. CDC guidance for SARS-CoV-2 infection may, or may not, be adopted by state and local health departments to respond to rapidly changing local circumstances. Providers should always check with their local health department to see if the CDC’s guidance on any given topic has been modified (particularly if more restrictive) from the CDC’s recommended guidelines. Follow this link https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/index.html for contact information to your state/local health department. If local recommendations vary from those of the CDC, and you are unsure what recommendations to follow, then it is safer to follow the more restrictive guidelines/recommendations.