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Old but gold: Danby turns to older technology to help safely store vaccines

The non frost-free freezers with temperature logging are able to maintain a steady temperature for the RNA vaccines
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The Danby Products flag flies along side the Canadian and American flags at the company's Guelph headquarters. Guelph Today file photo

Danby Products has amped up production of an old technology they say perfectly helps solve a new pandemic-related issue.

COVID-19 vaccines need to be stored and maintained in low temperatures and to do that, Guelph-based Danby produced and sold approximately 5,000 non frost-free freezers within Canada and the US. 

“It’s not a lot, but we’re racing to provide them,” said Jim Estill, CEO of Danby Products. The company makes approximately two million appliances a year through various manufacturing facilities. A quarter of those appliances are freezers. 

”We’re selling all we can make,” said Estill about their -20 C non frost-free freezers which are the same as the company’s home freezer, but with temperature logging. 

Last November, the company announced a new line of hyper-cold freezers based on the storage needs of COVID-19 RNA vaccines. The freezers would go down to -86 C. When the vaccines became available, the demand for their -20 C non frost-free freezers went up.

Moderna vaccines are required to be stored at -20 C whereas Pfizer vaccines are required to be stored at -80 C.

Estill said Danby is no longer making its -80 C freezers and is focusing to meet the demand of its -20 C non frost-free freezers.  

“In a weird sort of way, we’re almost going backwards in technology. Non frost-free freezers are what we made 30 years ago, 40 years ago. We still had them in our lineup but they were not in high demand and now all of a sudden for these vaccines, that's what's selling well,” said Estill.

The -20 C freezers are sold with a temperature logging package to ensure that the vaccine maintains a steady temperature. 

“I wouldn't want to get a vaccine that heated up overnight but was cool again,” said Estill adding that frost-free freezers heat and cool constantly and would not be suitable to store vaccines. 

“With your home freezers, if the power goes out for an hour, you don't really care, the temperature doesn't change that much but it makes a difference for vaccines,” said Estill. 

He said medical refrigerators have also been in high demand which are like regular refrigerators but with temperature logging. 

He said while it is logistically challenging to make things fast, the company is able to meet the demands and "it’s all good.”