HOUSTON - You've likely heard that a challenge for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is that it needs to be kept very cold, to keep from spoiling.
That requirement has turned attention to the dry-ice industry, which will play a vital part in getting the vaccine distributed.
For those who don't know, dry ice is carbon dioxide frozen to -109 degrees. There is just one manufacturer, in Houston, but lots of distributors.
Some say they've heard talk about spiking demand for the product, at a time when the industry is working to rebuild from regional shortages of carbon dioxide. "It's really making the supply and demand that much more tight," says distributor Paul Carpenter of The Ice Express.
The industry is aware of the challenge. In a statement, the Compressed Gas Association says, in part, "The current production capacity for carbon dioxide and dry ice is expected to be sufficient to meet anticipated demand from vaccine manufacturers."
There's a lot at stake. Dry ice is perfect for the task of transporting the vaccine. With its extreme cooling power, it also evaporates, when it 'melts', leaving no mess. The vaccine will be packed in insulated boxes, cooled with dry ice, and shipped across the country.
"It should be right in the target temperature to keep the vaccine cold and frozen until it's ready to be given out to the people," says Carpenter.
Business slowdowns have already put stress on the ice industry, and having part of the product-line diverted to a national cause could have a cost, as well. Paul Carpenter sees it as an investment, that he hopes will pay off with some normalcy when the pandemic is finally under control.
"With something this Earth-shattering for every single person in the world, I'm sure all the demands will be met," he says.