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Dairy industry worried about dry ice shortage with COVID-19 vaccine

Dry ice is used to prevent dairy culture from spoiling - and keep the Pfizer vaccine cold
Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 5:47 PM CST
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - We’re mere days away from when we are expected to begin receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The topic of conversation is now focused on the logistics of transporting these vaccines using dry ice.

“We recognize obviously that the COVID-19 vaccine is the number one priority, but as you prioritize other uses of dry ice in the country, we ask that the dry ice used for dairy cultures is a high priority,” John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, said.

The Pfizer vaccine requires extreme cold, and that’s where dry ice comes in.

This week, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association issued a letter to federal and state leaders saying its products also rely heavily on dry ice. Dairy culture is used for cheese and yogurt and it needs to be cold so those dairy products don’t spoil.

Most of the nation’s culture manufactures are in Wisconsin, and they use about 350,000 pounds of dry ice a week to distribute products around the world.

“Cultures are shipped weekly in the industry, and of course milk is a perishable product, so we have to make dairy products each day with what that cow gives us,” Umhoefer said.

A dry ice company Action 2 News spoke with said it is receiving calls from local doctors inquiring if there’s enough dry ice in stock. Nonetheless, those calls haven’t translated into orders just yet.

Governor Tony Evers on Thursday made $3.25 million available to nine ethanol producers in the state. Ethanol is used to make dry ice, and the industry was impacted negatively by the pandemic.

Umhoefer with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association said this is a positive step in keeping the dry ice supply strong.

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