MADISON, Wis.— As the Pfizer vaccine continues to be shipped around the country, it has to remain at sub-zero temperatures.
However, the way it’s kept cold is also crucial to Wisconsin’s $45 billion dollar dairy industry.
The vaccines are shipped using dry ice, and dry ice producers are ready for the increased need.
“The dry ice supply is good,” said Rick Gottwald, president, and CEO of the Compressed Gas Association. “We've been working on this, on the vaccine issue, talking to people on the supply chain for the past six weeks or so, and we're confident that the supply chain has the capability to meet the demands that are coming at us because of the vaccine.”
Most of the dry ice manufacturers in the country are members of the association. Gottwald said even with the increased need for dry ice, it only adds about 5% over what is being used regularly.
“So it's not a huge amount,” Gottwald said. “It's a critical need, it's a critical application, but it's not something that we think is going to impact the supply for other applications of dry ice.”
Demand for dry ice persists in other industries. In Wisconsin, the dairy industry needs about 350 thousand pounds of it per week.
“Our primary need is super chilled dairy cultures,” said Rebekah Sweeney, policy director with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.
Wisconsin has three massive manufacturers of dairy cultures.
“They are responsible for making the bulk of dairy cultures for the entire world,” Sweeney said. “So if they don't have dry ice, the world can't make cheese and yogurt and all the other great dairy products we all enjoy.”
The association has contacted and sent letters to elected officials, letting them know about the critical need the industry has.
They've been happy with the response and support from politicians like Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Gov. Tony Evers — who allocated more than $3 million to ethanol producers last week. Ethanol is key in the production of dry ice.
Sweeney said The Cheese Makers Association appreciates the actions and assurances politicians and trade groups have made, but it will continue to keep an eye on the dry ice supply.
“It's something that we're going to continue to watch very closely,” Sweeney said. “All it takes is mishandling of dry ice from folks that maybe aren't as used to using it and we could be in real trouble.”
Dry ice manufacturers remain confident that industries like dairy will be well supplied.
“I don't think it's going to be a challenge, but they should continue to get the dry ice that they need,” Gottwald said.
Compressed gas companies have already been working to supply the healthcare system with more oxygen tanks during the pandemic. Now they're playing a role in transporting the vaccine around the country.
“We're really proud to be part of this whole solution and treatment to this pandemic,” Gottwald said.