Earlier this week (11th November) gasworld reported how dry ice producers, distributors and equipment makers are bracing themselves for a spike in demand next year, with concerns there will be a tightening in the availability of dry ice for storage and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
It followed the news from Pfizer and BioNTech that the vaccine they had developed had shown strong results in medical trials; early data of tests on more than 40,000 people around the world suggests the vaccine protects over 90% of people from the virus. No safety concerns had yet been raised.
The pharmaceuticals giant and the German biotechnology company reportedly plan to apply for emergency medical approvals for the vaccine by the end of the month, with suggestions that deliveries could start to be made by the end of the year. The EU is understood to have agreed to buy up to 300 million doses of the vaccine, while the UK Government this week indicated its own roll-out of the vaccine could begin as early as December.
For the dry ice and wider refrigeration business, that is just the start of the story. Once a vaccine is declared ready, then comes the challenge of delivering millions of doses at ultra-cold temperatures with the help of dry ice – solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2) – and cryogenic freezers, which use liquid nitrogen.
Vaccines will need to be kept at temperatures as low as -70°C or -80°C (-94°F or -112°F), and may have to be shipped from one continent to another.
That has prompted immediate concerns over the demands placed on the dry ice business, and possibly supply chain shortages.
Any impact would be expected on a region-by-region basis, however. On one hand, gasworld has been told that increased demand from pharmaceuticals and logistics companies has already begun; on the other, the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) has expressed its expectation that there will be sufficient dry ice supply for the US and Canada.
‘Optimise your dry ice production capacity’
Whatever the regional variations, it’s clear that a spike in demand is coming for the dry ice industry. “One of the biggest challenges for vaccine distribution is to store and ship a new Covid-19 vaccine when and wherever needed,” Cold Jet said in a statement sent to gasworld.
“To be able to respond to all issues linked to the transport cooling of pharmaceuticals, all major shipping and distribution companies have to create ‘ultra-low temperature cold chain’ plans, in order to keep the vaccines below sub-zero temperatures (-78.5°C). Currently, the existing refrigerated transport infrastructure and supply chain is not prepared to handle shipments with these low temperatures.”
“That is why at all points in the vaccine transportation and distribution cold chain, dry ice is needed to maintain temperature. Dry ice sublimates without creating any waste or residue, making it the perfect refrigerating medium during the shipment of vaccines.”
With this critical need to be met and a significant rise in dry ice demand expected, Cold Jet is urging the sector to upgrade its equipment and be ready to act.
“It is crucial that pharmaceutical companies utilise the correct volume and format of dry ice,” explained the company, which has its global headquarters in Ohio in the US, and European headquarters in Belgium. Cold Jet also operates a number of global offices, and 13 service centres across 10 countries worldwide.
“It is crucial that pharmaceutical companies utilise the correct volume and format of dry ice…”
“During refrigerated vaccine transport, it is recommended to use 10mm dry ice nuggets to ensure a correct storage and shipment of the vaccines.”
“Our Cold Jet technology also allows you to upgrade your current pelletiser to a system capable of producing the right format of dry ice nuggets needed for the transportation of vaccines: 10mm dry ice nuggets.”
“This easy upgrade to your current dry ice production system will allow you to respond to this growing demand without having to invest heavily in new machinery and equipment. Another advantage is that it is possible for you to upgrade your pelletiser yourself. Our service team is 24/7 available and will provide you with the right information and instructions.”
‘In transit for several hours or days’
Cold Jet said the reason why the use of frozen vaccines is recommended, is because of their long-term stability and resulting shelf life – with the vaccine potentially in transit for several hours or days.
“Once removed from the containers, the vaccine can be kept unfrozen for one day at 2-8°C or for a limited time at room temperature. This means re-icing will be an important process to keep the vaccines at the right temperature before use,” it said.
“The vaccines may have already been in transit several hours and/or days (via airway or road transport) before they arrive at the vaccination centres, public and mobile clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies.”