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FAA issues safety alert about dry ice on planes ahead of COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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Posted at 1:27 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 14:27:52-05

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a safety alert about flying with dry ice onboard, in anticipation of the huge nationwide distribution project anticipated to start in the next few days once the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both need to be kept at extremely cold temperatures, requiring the use of dry ice during transit.

Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide that is pressed into blocks or pellets. It doesn’t melt into a liquid, it moves directly from a solid to a gas and that process can happen quickly at high altitudes.

That can cause problems onboard a plane, such as causing the plane to weigh less at times during the flight and change its center of gravity.

“CO2 sensors installed or carried in the aircraft or worn by the pilots and other crewmembers will assist the operator and crew in recognizing hazardous concentrations of CO2 and implementing effective risk controls,” the FAA’s safety alert recommends.

In addition, they encourage maximum ventilation onboard while on the ground and in the air, asking crewmembers to check air conditioning units and auxiliary power units before flight.

Exposure to elevated levels of CO2 can cause drowsiness or dizziness, and higher levels can impact breathing eventually leading to hypoxia and death.

The FAA also recommends that “pilot training on specific conditions and procedures can improve pilot decision-making in the event of a CO2 detector alert or other system abnormalities.”

Friday morning, Health and Human Services Director Alex Azar said Americans could begin getting the COVID-19 vaccine next week once the FDA and CDC give it emergency use approval.

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