PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Dry ice is an important component to make sure the COVID-19 vaccine stays cold.

The vaccine requires way-below freezing temperatures during shipping and storage. And that means dry ice is in big demand for a local company.

109 degrees below 0: It’s so cold you could be burned if you touch it. These days, dry ice is critical when talking about transportation of vaccines.

Roberts Oxygen in Portsmouth is one of the largest dry ice manufacturers in Virginia and on the East Coast.

“I think there will be a lot of maneuvering as time goes to see adjustments up and down to supply them,” said Mark Weaver is with Roberts Oxygen.

The new dry ice market involves dry ice pellets packed into vaccine containers. Some of those are used by Sentara Healthcare, as we saw on Monday when the first round of vaccines were distributed in Virginia.

“What has changed are the number of phone calls,” said Ben Jessee, the local Roberts Oxygen operations manager.

Here’s how the in-demand product is made: Liquid carbon dioxide is stored in bulk tanks outside the business. Then, it is brought inside, put into a machine and compressed.

Voila — dry ice.

Roberts Oxygen said various groups are calling requesting dry ice. The expect to continue to see a lot of business as vaccine distribution and administration gets underway.