Gross sales of dry ice skyrocket as hospitals put together to ship photographs
The ultra-cold temperatures required to store the Covid-19 vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany-based BioNTech have fueled a frenzy of freezers and dry ice shopping. Large freezers are expensive, however – and with hospital budgets already tight during the pandemic, dry ice has emerged as an option.
This is how Chris Vida, owner of the dry ice depot, described what he was seeing.
Vida’s business in Bridgewater, New Jersey, supplies an average of 40,000 to 50,000 pounds of dry ice per day. He told CNBC that new orders continue to come in from hospitals that need to store their Pfizer vaccine supplies at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. “”[Tuesday] It was a big day, we moved about 70,000 pounds of dry ice. So our inventory is a small shot. We have doubled the volume at this point. “
The average dry ice order from hospitals is 170 pounds, Vida said, adding that it also receives large orders from pharmacies and shipping giants like FedEx.
Dealers and suppliers across the country are facing a similar situation with the manufacture of the vaccine, which has received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Limited approval could be granted this week after the agency’s vaccines committee meets on Thursday.
There is no sleep for the vaccine or the Covid virus.
Acme Dry Ice President
Acme Dry Ice in Boston, one of the largest dry ice distributors in the nation, told CNBC that the team plans to work over the holidays to make sure it can meet the new orders. “There’s no sleep for the vaccine or the Covid virus,” said Marc Savenor, president of Acme Dry Ice.
Unlike the ice in your home refrigerator, dry ice is a solid form of carbon dioxide, or CO2. As early as March, due to the pandemic, fewer cars on the road contributed to a decline in ethanol production, which is a by-product of CO2, resulting in a shortage of gas. Experts said that driving eventually returned in the summer and the supply of CO2 recovered again.
Rich Gottwald, president of the Compressed Gas Association, told CNBC the industry is confident that there are enough CO2 products to meet demand for the vaccine. CGA is a trading organization that represents the largest CO2 suppliers and dry ice manufacturers. “The shortage we saw in the spring was really alleviated at the end of the day by driving back over the summer. [Companies] are ready to deliver dry ice as soon as the vaccine is available, “he added.
The industrial and chemical companies involved in the production of CO2 and dry ice are not the best-known names. Airgas, part of Air Liquide, supplies dry ice. Continental Carbonic, part of Matheson, is another supplier. The German Linde acquired Praxair in the USA in 2018 for more than 80 billion US dollars. Together with Air Products, Linde supplies CO2, which is then converted into dry ice by its customers.
One of the main challenges with dry ice is that, unlike toilet paper, it cannot be stored.
“Over time, dry ice will return to its gaseous form, whether that is five, seven or ten days, it certainly has a lifespan,” explained Gottwald. “At this point the product would need to be re-iced if it was used for a vaccine. More ice would have to be applied to the vaccine to keep it at that temperature.”
Chris Vida, owner of the Bridgewater, New Jersey dry ice depot, shovels dry ice prior to distribution.
This is one of the main reasons hospitals at the Dry Ice Depot in New Jersey want long-term contracts with Vida: To make sure they can refill after the leak. Vida said one of the hospitals he delivers dry ice to is St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx in New York City.
As hospitals figure out how many doses of vaccine they are being given, staff are confused about how much dry ice they need to keep the Pfizer vaccine at the correct temperature. “Now all the questions are starting and there’s a lot of confusion out there. People really don’t know how it’s stored, how we’re going to ship. How much do we cost?” [hospitals] need, “said Vida.
Medical workers and nurse technicians who immunize citizens also need to learn how to handle dry ice at such refrigerator temperatures. Experts said protective equipment is required to prevent frostbite – and inhaling too much can pose a serious health risk.
Forensic Detectors – a small Rancho Palos Verdes, California-based company that specializes in monitoring toxic gases like CO2 – also saw sales jump. “My sales have increased more than tenfold in the last three months,” said owner Dr. Kos Galatsis across from CNBC. “We don’t have any more carbon dioxide detectors.”
Companies that manufacture ultra-cold freezers are also seeing an increase in demand.
In late November, Dan Hensler, vice president of So-Low Environmental Equipment in Cincinnati, said the company had “gotten out of hand” despite its efforts to build inventory. “It was crazy. It was absolutely crazy,” he then told CNBC.
Carrier and Trane Technologies, both specializing in cold storage options from trucks to freezers, announced to CNBC that they are actively working with Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s public-private program to develop, manufacture and distribute Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to expedite.
– CNBC’s Patrick Manning and Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this story.