It is a small cargo that is worth more than gold because it can save lives. This Saturday morning at 6.30 am, the first anti-Covid 19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech laboratories called “Comirnaty” landed on French soil directly from the Puurs factory in Belgium. They were delivered in the Parisian suburbs in a huge warehouse of the central pharmacy of the Assistance publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), where mountains of drugs are stored.
About forty doses must be administered on Sunday in the long-term stay unit of the René-Muret hospital in Sevran (Seine-Saint-Denis) and in a geriatric center dependent on the Dijon CHU (Côte d’Or).
The four “thermal shippers” or isothermal boxes were transported in a truck escorted by motorcyclists from the gendarmerie during an inaugural trip under very high security, 340 km long. Inside, 3,900 bottles containing 19,500 doses of precious serum covered with dry ice, this carbon dioxide snow that keeps the long-awaited products at a temperature of around – 80 ° C.
The first doses arrived around 6:30 am this Saturday morning./LP/Philippe Lavieille
Two employees of the AP-HP, Anne, pharmacist on call and Ilhem, intern on duty, check the batch numbers whose expiration date is in April 2021. “This arrival of vaccines is a real relief”, breathes the first. “I did not expect them to be there so quickly,” concedes the second.
“We go from theory to practice”
The experts put on special shiny gloves worthy of a sci-fi movie so as not to burn their fingers due to extreme … negative temperatures and protect their eyes with XXL glasses. They can then open, using a cutter, the first isothermal box. “It’s a historic day, we go from theory to practice”, enthuses, with “pride and emotion”, Franck Huet, hospital pharmacist and head of the platform. A veil of smoke emerges, proving that it is more than a duck cold inside. On a high-tech box directly connected to the computer system of the Puurs plant, the lights are green, which means that the vaccines are at the right temperature.
A box controls the cold chain. LP / Philippe Lavieille
The dry ice packs are moved to a “very ventilated area”, in other words outside, outside the warehouse. It is there, in the open air, that they “sublimate”, passing directly from the solid state to the gaseous state without therefore passing through the liquid box. The white boxes, each containing 195 bottles, are placed in a super-freezer with a temperature of -70 ° C. The latter comprises two compartments, one being reserved for the doses of the second injection scheduled approximately 21 days after the first. Two other super-freezers were installed next door in the event of technical failures of the first.
The doses are stored in a super-freezer with a temperature of – 70 ° C. / LP / Philippe Lavieille
Once removed from their freezing shelter, the vaccines can be stored for 5 days at a “positive cold” temperature of between 2 ° C and 8 ° C, that is, that of a traditional refrigerator.
A “stressed” delivery man
The order intended for the René-Muret hospital in Sevran is prepared and thus repackaged. Three bottles are placed in a small box collected at 8 am by a courier driving a Citroën van. After exchanging slips and stamping, Jérémy, the delivery man, takes the “9-3” route. “I’m stressed,” he smiles, well aware of the highly symbolic value of his merchandise.
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VIDEO. Covid-19: the first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine have arrived in France