Local dry ice manufacturer keeping busy as promise of a COVID-19 vaccine nears

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dry ice manufacturers are seeing a spike in interest as the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine nears.

David Hanchette and his team at Cee Kay Supply, the only dry ice producer in the Kansas City region, have been keeping busy ever since Pfizer and BioNTech announced the development of a vaccine that the companies report is 95% effective.

“We’re kind of unsure what the demand is going to be,” Hanchette said.

The vaccine has to be stored in temperature that is minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Dry ice, which is the solid form of carbon dioxide, has a temperature of about 109-degrees below zero.

Hanchette said they’ve been getting calls from pharmacies and state and health officials, asking about the company’s dry ice supply.

“Most of them are asking questions about what the availability is, wondering how they store it, how it comes, what kind of quantities they need,” he said.

“It’ll be very challenging when this comes about,” said Sam Rushing, the president of Advanced Cryogenics.

The CO2 expert said we could see a shortage in dry ice because of the oil industry. The virus has hindered the production of ethanol.

“Ethanol plants are responsible for 45% of the CO2 produced in this country,” Rushing said.

He added that dry ice is already in high demand this time of year because companies use it to ship food and other products for the holidays.

“I’m hopeful that this will be less severe than some forecast,” Rushing said.

But Pfizer is not worried about a dry ice shortage. A spokeswoman for the company sent FOX4 the following statement:

“Pfizer will be producing our own dry ice, both at our Kalamazoo, Michigan site and at our Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin distribution site to ensure that we have plenty of dry ice for all our vaccine shippers and distribution needs. Therefore, there is no concern of distribution disruptions due to dry ice availability.”

Either way, Hanchette said they are ready to help in any way they can.

“We’ve got the capacity and we can make adjustments to meet that demand,” he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to submit their vaccine for FDA approval in the coming days. The companies expect to produce 50 million doses by the end of the year and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

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