Michael Hayes

Berkshire School employees load up the freezer that Fairview Hospital will use to store Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

Berkshire School is playing an important role in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This week Berkshire loaned out its New Brunswick Ultra Low Temperature Freezer to Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington in preparation for the delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine received emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week, and Berkshire Health Systems (Fairview Hospital's parent company) received 1,950 doses on Wednesday, according to hospital officials.

According to Dr. April Burch, director of Berkshire’s Advanced Math Science Research program, Berkshire’s freezer is capable of reaching temperatures of -86° C. The new vaccine requires storage in temperatures below minus-70° C.

“One of the most exciting things about the vaccine efforts for coronavirus is the new science technology that is being brought to light,” Burch said.

“This vaccine is an "mRNA"-based vaccine which is totally novel biotechnology. When I heard that the mRNA vaccines would be the first to reach the general community but who would receive the vaccines was dependent upon the storage capabilities, I immediately thought about donating our freezer for this effort," she added.

Berkshire's specialized freezer is typically utilized by science students to aid in high-level classroom research. For now, it will be used to store the vaccine that health experts hope will put an end to the nearly yearlong pandemic.

Dr. Burch credits Brooke Humes, BSRN, director of Berkshire’s student health services and a nurse at the School, with working closely with Fairview Hospital to have the equipment in place as soon as it was needed. Burch, Humes, and maintenance staff helped move the freezer from Berkshire’s laboratory to the hospital on Sunday.

"Berkshire School supports a critical link in the complex chain of steps required to safely administer our vaccination plan," said Anthony Rinaldi, Jr., executive vice president at BHS. "The School's support is an outstanding example of an institution that is living its values as a responsible neighbor committed to the greater Berkshire community."

Frontline healthcare workers are expected to begin receiving the vaccine on Dec. 17.

“I am so proud that Berkshire was able to help our community be one of the first to receive the vaccine in the country,” Burch added.