Page 26 - OHS, March 2021
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What You Need to Know About Gas Hazards
and the COVID-19 Vaccine
With the beginning of the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine comes the new concern of exposure to harmful gases.
When news broke that the FDA had approved Pfizer’s version of the COVID-19 vaccine, the world rejoiced. But on the heels of the announcement, a problem began to take shape.
Pfizer’s version of the COVID-19 vaccine must be kept extremely cold—a chilling minus 70 degrees Celsius to be exact—which leads to invisible gas hazards when transporting and storing the vaccine.
Both transportation and storage require cold temperatures to properly sustain the vaccine doses, making gas detection a crucial element of delivering this lifesaving vaccine around the world without putting people in danger throughout the process.
Transporting the COVID-19 Vaccine
Due to the extreme temperature requirements for the vaccine, transportation likely requires some form of dry ice. Dry ice, which is created by compressing carbon dioxide (CO2), gives off CO2 as it “melts.” When transported in bulk, this CO2 can put people nearby in danger by displacing oxygen.
Low oxygen levels are especially concerning when carrying the vaccine on an airplane. Any potential for CO2 on a plane means it could get into the cockpit, and that could put everyone on board in danger.
For truck shipments, where the supply gets broken down from
bulk into smaller deliveries, the issue of leaking CO2 is a minor but still present threat. During truck transport, the vaccine and dry ice are usually in a separate trailer, away from the driver. When those shipments are broken down for last mile delivery, the quantity of dry ice they are carrying is smaller and less likely to result in dangerously low oxygen levels.
Unfortunately, CO2 can be difficult to detect without the right equipment. To monitor changing CO2 levels when working with dry ice, look for a flexible multi-gas monitor that offers both oxygen and CO2 sensors.
Some multi-gas monitors allow you to monitor CO2 and a number of other gases with wireless connectivity so you can view real-time gas readings remotely through live monitoring software. With a setup like this, you can see CO2 readings from gas detectors on a cell phone or computer to ensure your team is safe, while actionable alerts on the gas detector can tell users exactly how to respond when an alarm sounds. This means that even inexperienced gas detector users can quickly and confidently make a safe decision when conditions become dangerous.
Storing the COVID-19 Vaccine
In terms of storage, warehouses, hospitals or other health centers are likely to store the vaccine in cryogenic rooms or coolers to achieve the ultra-cold temperatures that keep the vaccine stable.
22 Occupational Health & Safety | MARCH 2021

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