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UPS increasing dry ice production, freezers for COVID-19 vaccine

At least one of the promising coronavirus vaccines must be transported and stored at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit.

UPS is increasing its dry ice production and availability of super-cold freezers in anticipation of COVID-19 vaccines that need to be stored and transported at temperatures well below zero.

The shipping company says its health care arm can now produce up to 1,200 pounds of dry ice per hour, making it available for hospitals, clinics and other facilities in the U.S. and Canada. UPS says delivery can happen within one day.

“Healthcare facilities in Louisville, Dallas and Ontario will ensure we have the capability to produce dry ice to sufficiently pack and replenish shipments as needed to keep products viable and effective," UPS Healthcare president Wes Wheeler said in a statement.

UPS also said it is partnering with Stirling Ultracold to provide portable ultra-low temperature freezers. This will primarily be for smaller care facilities that may lack long-term freezer storage. 

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These freezers can store vaccines that require temperatures as low as minus-80 degrees Celsius (minus-112 degrees Fahrenheit). The vaccine from Pfizer has to be kept at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit. The one from Moderna also needs to be kept frozen, but at a much warmer minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keeping the vaccines properly stored will be key. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, meaning people will have to go back for a second shot after three and four weeks, respectively, to get the full protection.

AstraZeneca also said Monday that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective, but it does not need to be kept at subzero temperatures.

Pfizer formally asked U.S. regulators Friday to allow emergency use of its vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could bring limited first shots as early as December. The company said early results show the vaccine is 95% effective. The Food and Drug Administration can grant emergency use before the final testing is fully complete.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.