COVID-19 vaccines will save lives. But only if they are kept well chilled until they reach the vaccination centers. The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, for example, is especially sensitive. It needs to be stored at -70°C. Standard household refrigerators and even special medicine refrigerators are not adequate because they cannot reach the necessary temperatures. In order to secure the cold chain at all times during storage and transport, ultra-low freezers are used. The units, until now primarily used in research, provide temperatures as low as -90°C that allow them to store the vaccine doses. However, ultra-low freezers do pose certain potential risks that must all be tested. In order to ensure safe operation of the units and optimal storage conditions, the VDE is offering fast certification for these ultra-low freezers.
Keeping an eye on potential risks
In addition to the usual risks relating to electricity, mechanical parts and heat, the main risk with these types of units comes from the extreme cold and the flammable refrigerant they use. In addition to testing protection from electricity, the VDE Institute therefore also tests the cooling circuit for leaks - which could release refrigerants that are harmful to the environment - and the insulation that protects users from injury. In addition, VDE experts test the ultra-low freezers under different environmental climate conditions, which of course cannot negatively affect the chilled cargo. The VDE Institute conducts all of the tests in its labs at the Offenbach site, according to the international and European laboratory standards DIN EN 61010 1 and DIN EN 61010 2 011. That means manufacturers benefit from the synergy effects of different refrigeration and laboratory-equipment specialists.
Easier access to the international market
Testing of the refrigerators by the VDE Institute also gives manufacturers another extra benefit: in addition to VDE-GS certification, the VDE Institute also provides internationally recognized CB certification - which simplifies access to the worldwide market. "With this certification, we offer manufacturers as well as investors security for long-term planning. Ultra-low freezers have a long service life because they can still be used after the vaccination centers no longer need them. So ensuring safe long-term operation of the ultra-low freezers is a high priority for manufacturers and investors," explains VDE expert Matthias Schwager, who has already worked with his team to test and certify ultra-low freezers from German manufacturers.