OSAKA -- Panasonic has developed portable containers capable of storing Pfizer coronavirus vaccines safely at the prescribed temperature of minus 70 C.
The carriers, which come in 8- and 23-liter sizes, will be supplied to pharmaceutical and logistics companies on a pilot basis through March. Panasonic looks to put the containers on the wider market in the spring.
The units can provide an option for medical facilities that lack dedicated cold storage equipment.
Panasonic applied the vacuum insulation technology used in its refrigerators. Cooled with dry ice, the containers can keep the temperature inside at minus 70 C or below for up to 18 days.
Conventional cold carriers are prone to gaps between insulating material. To prevent cold air from escaping, Panasonic tapped proprietary technology to form a seamless box with insulating material.
Distribution of coronavirus vaccines often requires cold chain resources. Beyond Pfizer's inoculation, Moderna's vaccine needs to be held at minus 20 C. Panasonic says its containers can hold different vaccines if the refrigerant is changed.
Countries that have launched inoculation programs use cold storage units from Germany, the U.S. and elsewhere, so the supply of such containers is tight. Japan has few manufacturers of containers capable of handling ultralow temperatures, so Panasonic's new products would offset the supply shortage once the country begins mass vaccinations.
Panasonic intends to sell its containers through leases. The Japanese government is deploying ultralow-temperature freezers nationwide, which creates demand for units that do not require a power source and for those that can be used in sparsely populated areas.
Panasonic looks eventually to market its containers to drugmakers and developers of regenerative medical products.