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What is dry ice and why is it suddenly so important?



dry ice

Dry ice has a surface temperature of -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-78.5 degrees Celsius).

Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP via Getty Images

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You’ve probably heard of it dry ice for – or maybe even made something yourself. But lately, dry ice has become a focal point in the news, due to its unique ability to keep things very cold in transit without the same molten mess as regular ice. The Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine must be stored at a temperature of -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celsius), and dry ice will play a critical role in maintaining the proper temperature while the vaccine is distributed for distribution. In the United States, there are currently 14.8 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 282,000 deaths, and the number is expected to continue to rise over the holiday season amid record high hospital admissions.

But before we delve deeper into the corona pandemic and COVID-19 Vaccine Storage, What Exactly Is Dry Ice?

What is dry ice?

Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide. At a surface temperature of -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-78.5 degrees Celsius), a frozen block of dry ice instantly turns into a gas, skipping the liquid phase completely. Because it does not melt, and because it can be formed into solid blocks or pellets, it is already a popular choice for shipping certain foods and medicines.

Despite its many advantages as a coolant, dry ice must be handled properly or it poses health risks. Because it is so cold, insulated clothing and gloves should be worn when handling it, and should never be touched directly, because it “can burn the skin if frostbite,” according to the New York Department of Health. Good ventilation is also important because overexposure to carbon dioxide, especially in enclosed spaces, can be dangerous.

Dry ice and the Pfizer vaccine

Pfizer and Moderna are leading the charge against COVID-19 vaccines, with the UK is already approving the Pfizer vaccine for use. While the Moderna vaccine can survive for up to 30 days in a temperature range of 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 8 degrees Celsius), the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celsius) to remain stable – – requiring more advanced cooling. Pfizer and partner BioNTech have said they will be able to deliver as many as 50 million vaccine doses this year, followed by up to 1.3 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.

That’s where dry ice comes in, to ensure proper temperatures for the Pfizer vaccine are maintained during shipping and subsequent storage while ramping up for distribution. Pfizer’s detailed distribution plans include rigorous management of the vaccine along the supply chain, or cold chain, in the case of safe management of the transportation, storage and distribution of items to be kept at specified temperatures.

“Our distribution is based on a flexible just-in-time system that will ship the frozen vials directly to the vaccination point,” Pfizer said in its US Vaccine Distribution Information Sheet. It plans to ship its vaccines from Kalamazoo, Michigan and Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin Directly to hospitals, pharmacies and wherever the vaccine will be administered using “specially designed, temperature-controlled thermal shippers that use dry ice to maintain the recommended storage temperature of -70 ° C ± 10 ° C for up to 10 days unopened. ” Pfizer will also use thermal sensors with GPS capabilities to avoid potential shipping delays.

Once the vaccines reach their destination, Pfizer says they can be refrigerated for up to five days in a warmer temperature range of 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 8 degrees Celsius) – the same range as the Moderna vaccine. Once thawed, the Pfizer vaccines cannot be frozen anymore.

To learn more about the current status of the COVID-19 vaccines, when you’ll get yours, and more, check out this detailed explanation: COVID-19 Vaccine: Everything You Need to Know.


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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.


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