Former KC firefighter develops ‘game-changing’ way to store COVID vaccines at ultracold temperatures

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A former Kansas City firefighter believes he’s developed a product that could be a game-changer in getting COVID-19 vaccines to people at the temperatures in which the doses need to be stored.

On Tuesday, Edward Collins gave FOX4 an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at his company, Vaccine Pods.

“We assure that these vaccines are making it to the end user and the shot in the arm and the proper temperature the entire time,” Collins said.

The pods are similar to a portable moving container. Inside, a Stirling Ultracold freezer capable of holding 300,000 vaccines keeps the doses at around -100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pod is temperature controlled and powered by batteries that can be recharged with solar power.

Collins said wind turbines and a back-up generator help ensure the pod never loses power, even in harsh conditions in remote areas, for days or even weeks.

They’re developed in partnership with HCI Energy.

“Then we have a smaller detachment that has 7,000 doses on board that freezer,” Collins said.  “That freezer is capable with going with the batteries to deliver anywhere in the field through whatever type of vehicle you choose to deliver in.”

Collins said every year, about half of all vaccines are lost due to improper handling and temperature issues.

According to reports, thousands of doses were lost on the way to Michigan just days ago, due to poor temperature control.

Collins is a former firefighter and battalion chief with the Kansas City Fire Department.

“It gives you that sense of always wanting to be there helping people,” Collins said.  “I think this idea was kind of born from that.”

Kansas City has lost three members of the fire department to COVID-19. Collins and KCFD Capt. Bobby Rocha, who died from the virus, were especially close.

“Everybody was his friend and great firefighter,” Collins said.  “I mean absolutely incredible and even better person.”

Collins hopes his invention can save lives. That’s the first responder in him, and he’s doing this now in the memory of a dear friend.

“So when the first one of these goes out, is [Rocha] going to be one of the first thoughts?” FOX4 asked.

“Yeah,” Collins said. “Matter of fact, we may put his name on the first one someplace.”

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