The BioNTech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine needs to be kept at a temperature of minus 70C © POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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Now that effective Covid-19 vaccines are being developed, the next challenge is transportation. Delivery around the world, especially to poorer countries, is a new line of potential business. Companies that can supply crucial parts of the vaccine cold storage chain quickly, such as Panasonic, will benefit.

Global demand for vaccines that require cold storage will expand the supply chain market, worth more than $110bn in Asia last year, according to research firm Imarc.

All Covid-19 vaccines must be kept cool, from manufacture through delivery and storage. Some need extremely low temperatures — minus 70C for the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine and minus 20 for Moderna’s. Yet two-thirds of the world's population are unlikely to have easy access to vaccines that require storage at freezing temperatures, warns DHL.

In Asia, Panasonic and Chinese appliance maker Haier are among the first to offer a solution. Panasonic, the Japanese electronics group, has adapted its refrigerator technology to develop storage for the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. The transportation box — which should be on sale in the next few months — will be in demand. Japan would need at least 30,000 of these boxes this year before the delivery of its BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines start.

Even China’s Sinovac vaccine, which can be stored at relatively higher temperatures of 2 to 8C, will be available only to the 70 per cent of the world’s population with access to equipment. For countries with warm climates and unstable electricity supply, specialised medical freezers and back-up power systems will be required. Haier has already started shipping these units to countries including the Philippines. Other companies that have invested in cold chain logistics networks stand to gain too, including Alibaba.

Shares of both Panasonic and Haier Smart Home have more than doubled from a March low. Much of those gains are thanks to core electronics businesses. Neither yet reflect the growth potential of the steady new line of vaccine storage business in 2021.

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