Dry ice sales have reportedly risen sharply after Pfizer announced encouraging results for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which must be stored at minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be effective.
Harry Gehm, a fifth-generation Akron, Ohio, ice man, told USA Today that he is getting calls from all over the region.
“The Ohio health department called for 15,000 pounds of dry ice a week,” he said, adding that area hospitals and a grocery chain that features pharmacies in its stores have also called to make sure he has capacity.
Dry ice will be crucial for the distribution of Pfizer’s vaccine, USA Today notes, adding that the company created a special kind of packaging that accommodates bags of dry ice to deliver it at the needed temperature. Its vaccine is the furthest along out of the four currently in phase 3 testing, and the only one that needs such low temperatures.
The vaccine reportedly needs to be kept at such low temperatures because its molecules are highly fragile.
Once at a medical center, the vaccine can only be held at refrigerator temperature, between 35 to 46 degrees, for up to five days, USA Today noted.
The newspaper also reported that demand for medical-grade ultracold freezers is so high that orders are backlogged for up to six weeks.
“Sales are up 250 percent from the first quarter,” the CEO of Stirling Ultracold, Dustin Tenney, told USA Today, which noted that many hospitals already have such equipment to store blood products and biological samples but are still ordering more units.
Moderna’s vaccine, USA Today notes, does not require such extreme temperatures and was shown to be 94.5 percent effective. However, development of its vaccine is slightly behind that of Pfizer’s.