UPS to help distribute coronavirus vaccines by making its own dry ice

coronavirus vaccine distribution
Photo via Atomic Taco/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

To combat the possibility of a shortage, the United Parcel Service has announced that it will be increasing dry ice production to help with coronavirus vaccine distribution, as well as supplying portable freezers to facilities in need by partnering with Stirling Ultracold.

The shipping company said in late November that it will be partnering with manufacturer Stirling Ultracold to provide freezers to point of care facilities that need assistance finding more permanent storage solutions. The coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer must be kept at -94 degrees Fahrenheit to remain effective—the vaccine candidates produced by Moderna and AstraZeneca don’t have to be kept quite that cold—and has to be used quickly after removal from cold storage. The freezers produced by Stirling Ultracold can reach -112 degrees F. 

According to The Hill, UPS can produce up to 1,200 pounds of dry ice per hour and ship it within 24 hours to U.S. hospitals and clinics for the storage of vaccines. Bloomberg notes that the investment into freezers, in particular, underscores the commitment to coronavirus vaccine distribution being made by parcel carriers. That commitment is expected to be instrumental in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the country. 

A whopping 4.6 million coronavirus vaccines are set to begin distribution by mid-December, federal officials have said. This likely would first be targeting healthcare workers and those who are at high-risk of fatal consequences should they contract the coronavirus. 

Dry ice was in short supply earlier in the pandemic due to difficulties in securing carbon dioxide. As it is an ideal refrigerant for storing food and medical supplies, the supply of carbon dioxide dipped— a lot— following lockdowns and reductions in demand from businesses which had to close their doors and, thus, reduced their need for carbon dioxide. The demand for CO2 was further decreased by abrupt changes in driving. 

With stay-at-home orders reducing the need to drive anywhere, gasoline demand fell, and with it, ethanol and CO2. 

But UPS is helping to help fix that.

“Enhancing our dry ice production capabilities increases our supply chain agility and reliability immensely when it comes to handling complex vaccines for our customers,” Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, said in a statement.

Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:

Sources: CNBC, UPS, The Hill, Bloomberg, Quartz

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