For weeks, news outlets have reported a shortage of hand sanitizer in the fight against coronavirus. James Warren, the head distiller at Wild Horse Distillery in Kingsville, decided to help out.

Just one problem: the supplies needed to make the precious liquid weren’t available.

Warren hopes that he’ll be able to start making sanitizer by the middle of next week.

Glycerol and hydrogen peroxide will be shipped Tuesday from Tennessee. Acetone was shipped from Belgium on Friday. The three chemicals are used to denature ethanol distilled at the distilleries — which usually make it for consumption — so users can’t get drunk off the sanitizer.

“Prices have gone up on everything, even the bottles. We’re having a hard time finding the bottles,” Warren said.

Plastic bottles used to hold sanitizer were roughly 20 cents each a month ago. Now they’re 60 cents or higher, he said.

“Most places in the U.S. that make the plastic bottles — they’re out of stock for two-to-three weeks,” Warren said.

Even though he doesn’t have the supplies yet, Warren is working his hardest to be ready when they come. He planned to spend all Monday night making alcohol for the sanitizer.

“We want to help out the community at a time when they’re in need,” Warren said.

Several distilleries in the Corpus Christi-area have already made sanitizer, including Coastal Bend Distilling Co. in Beeville, South Texas Distillery Home of Wild Rag Vodka in Sandia and Aerodrome Distilling in Corpus Christi.

South Texas Distillery made about 200 gallons of sanitizer it donated to first responders. The distillery isn’t making any more because of limited supplies.

Warren expects he’ll also be able to make at least 200 gallons that will first be donated to first responders, health care workers and some restaurants and bars. If there’s any left over, he plans to sell it to the public.

He wants to continue making sanitizer as long as there is a need, but will only be able to if he can find supplies.

Warren is using a formula for the sanitizer provided by The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury.

The Corpus Christi-area isn’t the only region experiencing a shortage of hand sanitizer. The drastic need is being felt across the nation and even worldwide, said Rakesh Tammabattula, CEO of QYK Brands.

Tammabattula’s Southern-California based company usually focuses primarily on manufacturing health supplements, but has switched all its resources to make sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer is classified as a over-the-counter drug, so ingredients must be pharmaceutical grade.

“Distilleries are definitely helping the immediate need.” Tammabattula said. “(But) we cannot guarantee the efficiency of the product made with alcohol distilled in a distillery.”

Tammabattula said the wait time for sanitizer supplies from U.S. companies is six to 12 weeks.

“Health care workers, they are the ones who are getting impacted the most,” he said. “We have been working with manufacturers here and many plants all over the U.S. It seems fairly certain we won’t be able to continue the production (in the U.S.) at the consistent scale we would like to to keep up with a consistent supply.”

QYK Brands is partnering with American Airlines to have supplies imported into the the U.S. from China in a passenger plane. Most cargo planes are fully booked shipping medical supplies.

“China being a manufacturer for the world, they have stepped up on their game and they have ramped up production over there,” he said.

Tammabattula said the state of the shortage is at “the worst case scenario” and more supplies should become available in the coming weeks.

“Some health care workers don’t have access to (sanitizer) at all,” he said.

Christus Health centers in the Corpus Christi-area aren’t experiencing a shortage of sanitizer at this time. But officials “have concerns,” said Kevin Dolliole, public relations specialist for the system.

“There are benefits to being part of a multi-national health care system with a strong supply chain force,” he said. “There are many people working around the clock making sure we have an adequate supply on hand for a variety of needs expected.”

Christus has a supply-chain team that coordinates the need of medical supplies and watches hospitals’ inventories. The team can pull resources from other system locations to make sure all centers have enough supplies.

Donations of sanitizer and supplies have also helped.

“The generosity (of) this community that’s been shown to our front-line staff of nurses, doctors and associates have been nothing short of amazing,” Dolliole said. “The prayers, the donations and the love that we have seen on display lifts all of us during this difficult time.”

By Kathryn Cargo

(This article was originally published in the Caller Times on April 6, 2020.)