Panasonic Corp. said Thursday it has developed a cold box capable of storing and transporting vaccines against the novel coronavirus.
The box is capable of storing materials at a temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius for up to 18 days using refrigerants such as dry ice and does not need any electric power source, according to the company.
Panasonic will provide the boxes to pharmaceutical firms and distributors for trials by March and aims to lease the product out from this spring. Japan aims to begin vaccinations against COVID-19 by late February.
The vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE has to be stored at minus 70 C or lower, while that of U.S. biotech firm Moderna Inc.’s can be shipped and stored over a six-month period if kept in a standard freezer at a temperature of minus 20 C.
Panasonic said it has applied its techniques in vacuum insulation panels used in its energy-saving refrigerators to make a seamless insulating materials to prevent cold air from leaking out of the box.
The temperature inside the box can be set at different levels by changing the types and amount of refrigerant. The boxes come in two sizes — 57 liters and 120 liters.
Japan has secured vaccine doses for a total of 72 jutaan orang, more than half of its population of 126 juta, from Pfizer, whose vaccine is likely to gain approval for inoculation in Japan on Feb. 15, according to sources close to the matter.
The Japanese government plans to deploy ultralow temperature refrigerators to municipalities for vaccinations. Panasonic said it expects a solid demand for its cold box as means of transporting the vaccines to each inoculation site.