Local company manufactures cold storage units for COVID-19 vaccine transportation


ARAB, Ala. – Several companies are working to get emergency authorization for their coronavirus vaccines. The potentially life-saving vaccines must be shipped in very cold temperatures. The only active cold chain supplier in the world is in Northeast Alabama.

The cold boxes at Cold Box Express in Arab are the only active system in the world, according to the company’s president and CEO Foster McDonald.

An active system is one that is battery powered, self-contained, and the temperature inside can be monitored and adjusted remotely.

The use of dry ice is a passive system.

Cold Box Express has been in the pharmaceutical sector for around six years.

“(It) can be utilized in hospital applications to pharmacy applications to transportation between distribution centers and any of those vaccine outlets,” said McDonald.

McDonald grew up in Arab and is happy to call it home for his business.

“We manage temperature all the way from -20 Celsius up to room temperature where some pharmaceutical products require room temperature or more commonly about 5 degree Celsius, which is 40, 41 degrees Fahrenheit which is the common refrigerator,” explained McDonald.

The ability to monitor and control the temperature as well as track the unit itself is a big benefit for pharmaceutical companies.

“The COVID vaccine regulations that are provided by CDC, they have to report on those temperatures routinely. They can’t just throw it in a box and hope for the best. There are some technical standards that they have to meet. Our units meet every one of the CDC standards that have been provided,” said McDonald.

McDonald told News 19 the cold boxes are already being used by the California Department of Public Health.

“They are staging cold boxes in the state to manage the in-state distribution both for community health outlets and other places where the state will be responsible for distribution of the vaccine,” he said.

He is hoping to help distribute and/or store the vaccine in other states.

“It is an exciting opportunity of course, but it would provide a great amount of gratitude to us to be a part of a solution,” added McDonald.

The cold boxes are designed to hold an entire pallet worth of product, which could be anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, depending on how they will be packaged.

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