Storing the COVID-19 vaccine could require large amounts of dry ice

COVID-19 Vaccines And Storage Plans

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -With an increase of COVID cases spreading across the state, there’s more anticipation than ever about the availability of a vaccine. Ochsner Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Hart believes the approval for a vaccine could happen soon.

“We would anticipate hopefully within that 2nd and 3rd week of December, we’ll actually have some doses available,” Hart said.

Those vaccines will first go to healthcare workers.

“We know those high risk workers, people for instance, those nurses taking care of our patients in our COVID units, our ICU or med surge beds where they’re taking care of 30 patients,” Hart said.

Next in line for the vaccine will be people in nursing homes, but Dr. Hart points out, it’s unclear just how much of the vaccine will be available for Louisiana, so it could take some time to reach the general public.

“Realistically, I think you’re looking into the first part of the year because we have a lot of healthcare workers that are taking care of these patients, and we have got to get them vaccinated,” Hart said.

As the state and various healthcare providers prepare to distribute the vaccine, they’re also discussing the difficult job of storing them in extreme cold temperatures. That will require either, specialized freezers or dry ice.

Companies, like Reliant Atlantic Group, that are local dry ice distributors are already fielding calls.

“By the state, South Louisiana Medical Association and various hospitals. I had three hospitals call me this morning just wanted to know if we have dry ice available,” said Brandon Hill.

Hill is the manager of the facility in Houma. He says a lot of dry ice will be needed in the near future, and there’s already been a strain on the dry ice industry.

“We’re tapped out right now as far as CO2 with our customer base. We have all this e-commerce that’s come up because of COVID. That’s really rapped out our CO2 industry. We’re even thinking that there may be a mandate in the future for us to take it away from our customers and put it towards this vaccine,” said Hill.

Hill says he and other distributors are planning now for the massive amounts of dry ice that will be needed. He say they’re waiting right now for the green light.

“We’ll be all hands on deck to try to take care of this thing as best we can. I have probably set up six hospitals and five couriers as vendors for the dry ice once this thing starts. I’ve probably got 200 calls,” said Hill.

Not all hospitals and clinics will have to purchase dry ice. Ochsner said FOX 8, they have purchased specialized freezers to store the vaccine.

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