New Brunswick

Mount Allison offers its -80 C freezers to help province store COVID-19 vaccines

Mount Allison University lent New Brunswick two -80 C freezers required to store the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, to help the province beat the second wave of the pandemic. 

Freezers are big enough to store enough vaccines to vaccinate all New Brunswickers

Mount Allison University has confirmed a positive case in its campus community, the second since the start of the pandemic. (Submitted by Mount Allison University)

Mount Allison University lent New Brunswick two -80 C freezers required to store the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, to help the province beat the second wave of the pandemic. 

The Sackville university's dean of science said a group of technicians, researchers and faculty members worked through Christmas break to clear space in the freezers so they could be lent to the province for a while.  

Amanda Cockshutt said they were able to empty two of the university's seven super-cold freezers.

Cockshutt said it took a lot of effort to get the freezers emptied and operations will be more of a challenge without them, but the university felt supporting New Brunswick through this pandemic was more important than its research projects.

"It will be nice to have them back … but that's a sacrifice we felt we could make," Cockshutt told CBC's Shift.

"Now that the space is freed up we feel that we can operate, we can continue with our research."

Mount Allison University dean of science Amanda Cockshutt says a team worked hard to empty the heavy-duty freezers so they could be lent to the province. (Mount Allison University)

She said the donated freezers, which are just over two metres tall, one metre wide and one metre deep and weigh over 200 pounds each, were moved by New Brunswick using an 18-wheel truck earlier this month.

Cockshutt said she doesn't know where they were taken.

She said each freezer would likely fit enough vaccine to inoculate the entire province. 

"The vaccines are actually pretty small, they're in vials, and you could fit a lot of doses into one freezer," she said.  

"But the problem is that the vaccines can't be out of the freezer for very long, so we need a number of them across the province to keep them at the appropriate temperature until they're ready to go into people's arms." 

The donated freezers were loaded onto a truck and moved elsewhere in the province to be used in COVID-19 vaccination efforts. (Mount Allison University )

These heavy-duty freezers are used for storing delicate materials, including samples of proteins and DNA for the university's lab research. 

"When you're in the middle of a project, you often need to save samples along the way and you may go back to them, but you also may not,"

"When we've completed a project and completed the results, we'll often go back and throw out any of the materials that we no longer need.. Sometimes you need a little reminder to go back and do that."

Cockshutt said the province can keep the freezers until they're no longer needed, but she's hoping to have them back by September. 

She said the freezers were funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation along with some endowments to the university.   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isabelle Leger is a reporter based out of Fredericton. You can reach her at isabelle.leger@cbc.ca

With files from Shift

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