‘We’re geared up and ready’: Dry ice requests increase for storing COVID-19 vaccines

‘We’re geared up and ready’: Dry ice requests increase for storing COVID-19 vaccines

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Even though a COVID-19 vaccine is not yet on the market, hospitals and other medical facilities are preparing for its arrival, and so is the ice industry.

Dry ice has been a huge hit among the pharmaceutical and food service industries but now with the future COVID-19 vaccine, eyes are on it once again.

Even at Roberts Oxygen’s small space in Richmond, the branch is serving up big quantities of dry ice.

“On this machine, we can produce around 2,000 lbs in an hour,” said Store Manager Josh Kennard.

However, the company is prepared to do even more in the future to help with storing any COVID vaccines.

“We’ve gotten calls from hospitals already wanting to be set up and already in the system,” said Branch Manager Mark Weaver. “We’ve gotten calls from other medical facilities as well wanting to make sure are we going to be able to supply the product.”

But why dry ice over regular ice?

“It does not melt, it actually dissipates,” Kennard said. “So the dry ice doesn’t leave any residual effects and it’s colder than regular ice. Dry ice is -109 degrees below zero; regular ice is 32 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Kennard said many industries are already using the product for storage, along with mold removal and shipping.

“We’ve got a lot of people who ship food,” he added. “That’s primarily what we see a lot of people coming in for.”

But the potential COVID vaccines are fueling new demand. All of the vaccine candidates need to be stored at very cold temperatures; none more so than Pfizer’s candidate which must be stored at minus 112 degrees.

However, there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to storing the potential vaccines.

“How much is going to be used?” Weaver said. “They’ve given us some data points but it’s still a little bit up in the air.”

Medical employees would also have to learn how to handle the dry ice to ensure no injuries take place.

Despite a recent carbon dioxide shortage across the Mid-Atlantic region, Weaver said his crew is prepared for the demand.

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