The many hurdles for Pfizer's COVID vaccine

Work to distribute Pfizer Inc and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is gearing up - but it won’t hit local pharmacies for the general public any time soon.

The companies announced on Monday (November 9) that the experimental vaccine is 90% effective at preventing COVID-19.

The news sent U.S. stocks to record highs -- though they are still awaiting data on safety, which could come later this month.

So what’s next?

Pfizer and BioNTech need to get regulators to sign off on the shot before it can start shipping vaccines to those considered most in need by the authorities.

That will likely be healthcare workers and people living in nursing homes.

But the vaccine’s novel technology comes with complex storage requirements - like the fact it needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius or -94 Fahrenheit.

It would only keep for five days in a regular refrigerator, unlike other vaccines including ones from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc.

That could be an obstacle for even the most sophisticated hospitals - even in the U.S.

It’s also a problem for shipping.

As it may impact when and where it is available in rural areas or poor countries where resources are tight.

Pfizer says it's working closely with the U.S. government on how to ship the vaccine around the globe from its distribution centers in the U.S., Germany, and Belgium.

According to a spokeswoman, the detailed plan includes using dry ice to transport frozen vaccine vials by both air and land at their recommended temperatures for up to 10 days.