New COVID-19 Vaccine Creates Surge in Ultra-low Freezer Demand

Will the new vaccines create a shortage of Ultra-Low Freezers?

In phase 3 of clinical trials, two large vaccine developers, Pfizer and Moderna, recently announced that their vaccine candidates require storage at ultra-low temperatures. Both vaccines hope to begin distribution by the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. With flu season on the horizon, many clinics and healthcare facilities will need more storage space to stock both vaccines, creating the perfect storm for a cold storage shortage.

Moderna has said their vaccine needs to be stored at -4°F (-20°C), while Pfizer's candidate requires an ultra-low temperature of -94°F (-70°C). Most medical facilities do not have enough low or ultra-low freezers to meet these requirements. As the demand for medical freezer and vaccine refrigerators continues to rise over the next several months, it may be a good idea to purchase an ultra-low freezer sooner rather than later.

What Are Low and Ultra-low Freezers?

You will find medical-grade low and ultra-low freezers in use in both laboratory and clinical settings. They play a critical role in maintaining the integrity of biomedical samples and some vaccines. There is a variety of available styles and sizes available when it comes to low and ultra-low freezers. Choices include chest-style, upright, and under the counter styles. Sizes range from five to 49 cubic feet. The temperature range for an ultra-low freezer is -50° to -90°C (-58°F to -130°F) while a low freezer ranges -10 to -45°C (14°F to -45°F).

How Do Low and Ultra-low Freezers Work?

In the medical field, cascade refrigeration stores a variety of specimens and samples at low temperatures. A cascade system helps safely spin temperature down to low and ultra-low temperatures. Physical and thermodynamic features, a series of counterflow heat exchangers, and a mixture of refrigerants in the unit make up the cascade system.

Which Style of Ultra-low Freezer Do I Need?

The most popular styles include upright, under-counter, and chest style freezers.

  • Upright - An upright freezer is best for storing a large number of supplies for quick access. An upright freezer is ideal for labs and clinics administering large quantities of vaccines.
  • Undercounter - Discreet and compact, under-counter freezers deliver the same high-quality cold storage on a smaller scale. Ideal for small pharmacies and clinics short on space and don't stock many temperature-sensitive medications and vaccines.
  • Chest-style- Offering excellent efficiency, a chest-style freeze requires minimum maintenance due to its efficient use of the compressor.

Comparing Medical-grade Freezers

When selecting a low or ultra-low freezer, you'll want to consider a few factors such as size, style, price, energy use, and back-up systems. It is critical to select a reliable and trusted cold storage unit to protect your product load investment and ensure your patients' safety. Let's compare ultra-low storage from some of the most popular manufacturers and distributors.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Panasonic AccuCold Helmer Scientific Stirling K2 Scientific
Styles Chest, undercounter and upright Chest and Upright Upright and undercounter Upright and undercounter Upright, portable and undercounter Upright, undercounter and chest
Capacity 1.4-33.5 cu. ft. 3-29.8 cu. ft. 1.4-49 cu.ft. 4-26 cu.ft. 0.9-27.7 cu. ft. 2.5-21 cu. ft.
Price $683-$17,000 Starting at $6,545 $369-$4,199 N/A $7,147-


Eco-friendly Refrigerants Some models Some models Some models Yes Yes Yes
Back-Up Features Alarms and notification via mobile device Alarms for temperature excursions and optional padlock on door Alarm for temperature excursions and factory installed lock with key Alarms for temperature excursions

and keypad access

Touchpad security and alarm setpoints Password protected display, temperature excursion alarms, padlock option on door

The Bottom Line

Since the current leading COVID-19 vaccines will need to be stored at low and ultra-low temperatures, healthcare facilities and pharmacies need to be proactive and purchase a medical-grade freezer soon so they’re ahead of the game. An ULT freezer shortage is in the making. To avoid spending months waiting for a ULT unit on back order, purchasing now is a smart move. At K2 Scientific, we offer low and ultra-low freezers that are environmentally conscious, budget-friendly and reliable. Our supply is limited, so snag one they’re still available!

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