Dry ice makers pressed to meet demand for vaccine distribution
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We’re getting closer to a COVID-19 vaccine moving onto the market. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue Pfizer vaccine authorization Friday evening. And as details get ironed out — who will get it first and how and where — one thing is certain: The vaccine has to be kept in extreme cold at minus 94 degrees. And keeping it that cold requires dry ice.
Where does that dry ice comes from? Is there enough of it to go around? And how much is it going to cost?
Just about every day, Reggie Wright, a sales manager for Roberts Gas in the Washington, D.C., area gets calls from his anxious clients — food packagers, industrial cleaners, hospitals and labs that ship specimens. They want to know: “Do we think there’ll be a shortage, do we think we’ll have any problems supplying the quantities that they are guessing they may need?” he said.
That’s because demand for dry ice is about to spike, and a whole bunch of industries are worried.
“Without dry ice, we would not be able to get dairy cultures out there, and as a result, would not be able to process milk,” said Rebekah Sweeney of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.
She said manufacturers use 350,000 pounds of dry ice a week to make cheese cultures. So whatever it costs, they’re going to need to buy it.
Now, dry ice sells for $1 to $3 a pound. It’s a solid form of carbon dioxide.
Prices started climbing in the spring because of the pandemic. Sam Rushing, president of Advanced Cryogenics, has been consulting to the industry for more than three decades. The new shutdowns “could precipitate more shortages,” he said, and higher costs.
Terry Esper, a supply chain expert at Ohio State University, said the prospect of scarcity could be an opportunity for innovation.
“We’re going to start exploring additional ways of maintaining temperatures while in transit that require solutions other than dry ice,” he said.
But he said in the meantime, while the vaccine gets priority, smaller businesses and nonessential industries may end up losing out.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?
The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.
What kind of help can small businesses get right now?
A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.
What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?
New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.
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