By Leia Rubinstein
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is ready for use, but there is just one problem: it needs to be stored at a very cold temperature of -94 F. Specifically, it requires a “cold chain” — a system that keeps the temperature standard throughout the delivery process. Fortunately, a solution for how to maintain the cold temperature required of the vaccine has been found from an unlikely source: Dippin’ Dots.
Dippin’ Dots is a brand famous for its ice cream in the form of tiny beads. But what does the popular summertime treat have to do with COVID-19 relief? As it turns out, Dippin’ Dots uses special freezers that can get as cold as -122℉ to make the shape of the ice cream beads. Stan Jones, the chief development officer for Dippin’ Dots, explained that in order to get the special shape of Dippin’ Dots, the ice cream must be pelletized. Ingredients are mixed and then dripped into the freezer to create their characteristic shape. They are then stored and sent out in freezers at -49℉.
Dippin’ Dots actually developed these special freezers with the intention of using them for medical purposes in addition to storing their frozen treat. As of 2012, some are already implemented for use in storing vaccines that use pelletization. Jones received inquiries about purchasing some of their freezers for the coronavirus vaccine and is prepared to sell them, but warns about the safety precautions that must be taken into consideration.
Jones informs that the same freezer should not be used for both food and vaccine to prevent contamination. Any freezer that Pfizer-BioNTech would purchase must never have been used for Dippin’ Dots and reserved only for vaccine storage.
Also, Jones explains that the freezers utilize dry ice, a solid form of carbon dioxide that is -109℉. Dry ice, however, comes with certain risks, such as burns or frostbite if touched with a bare hand. In addition, if warmed up, dry ice can sublimate into carbon dioxide gas and cause anyone around to suffocate. Dippin’ Dots delivery workers undergo special training to stay safe on the job and Jones recommends similar training for the delivery of the vaccines.
In this late stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is finally an end in sight with the creation of a vaccine. However, simply having the vaccine is not enough; there is also the issue of transporting the vaccine for delivery across the country. Thankfully, the Dippin’ Dots company freezers may be the solution to this problem, and will speed up the process of eliminating the coronavirus.