GENEVA

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine no longer needs to be stored permanently in special freezers, Switzerland’s health regulator said on Tuesday.

The Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic) said it has reviewed new data that shows the vaccine’s quality can “still be guaranteed for up to two weeks” if it is stored at temperatures between minus 25 and minus 15 degrees Celsius (minus 13 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit).

“This a key factor in enabling the vaccine to be used in Switzerland in health centers, medical practices or pharmacies,” the agency said.

“The greater flexibility in the distribution, storage, and administration of the vaccine may help increase the vaccination rate in Switzerland.”

Swissmedic said that vials of the vaccine can now be transported and stored for up to two weeks at temperatures within the new determined range.

The European Medicines Agency also gave its nod to the revised storage conditions last week, saying it would “facilitate the rapid rollout and distribution of the vaccine in the EU.”

Previously, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had to be stored at ultra-low temperatures between minus 90 and minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 130 and minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit).

Swiss authorities have taken some flak for the relatively slow rate of vaccinations in the alpine country, where the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs have been approved for use.

According to latest figures from health authorities, a total of 1,436,996 vaccine shots have been administered in the country of 8.6 million people, with 535,250 people having been fully vaccinated.

“The new storage conditions mean that the vaccine is easier to distribute,” said Philippe Girard, deputy executive director of Swissmedic.

“This extension of the authorization comes at an important point in enabling more people to be vaccinated.”

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