Some of the new COVID-19 vaccines require ultra-low temperature for storage and transportation. The expanded implementation and use of ultra-low storage could create a potential hazard if handled inappropriately or in the event of an accident.
Dry ice will be used to transport and store some of the new COVID-19 vaccine. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and undergoes sublimation as it transforms from a solid to a colorless, odorless gas. Dry ice, components of the container, or products held within the container are stored around -79 °C (-109 °F). Protective gloves and clothing should be worn to prevent skin exposure. Even brief exposures to such extreme temperatures can result in frostbite, a form of thermal burn injury cared for at many burn centers. Prolonged exposure can also result in Injuries that compromise the skin and subcutaneous tissues requiring specialized wound care and potential surgical intervention. Frostbite injuries requiring specialized care should be referred to your local burn center. Please reference the American Burn Association website for your local burn center.
It is also important to note that as dry ice undergoes sublimation it can result in suffocation. Dry ice as a solid expands when it converts to a gas form and can increase in ambient air concentration in a confined space. Under ambient conditions carbon dioxide makes up about 0.04% of the atmospheric air.1 Respiratory distress and seizures can occur at 2% concentration and death can occur at 10% or greater.2 This can result in what is referred to as confined space hypoxia and has been estimated by OSHA to result in 90 deaths each year. Proper ventilation and containment is essential when handling dry ice.3”
2. Zugibe FT, Costello JT, Breithaupt MK, Zappi E, Allyn B. The confined space-hypoxia syndrome. J Forensic Sci 1987; 32:554–60.
3. Firl C, Argudin R. New OSHA rescue requirements for confined space retrieval: what you should know. Occup Health Saf 2015; 84:16, 18, 20–1.