Tractor trailers loaded with suitcase-size containers of COVID-19 vaccine will roll out of Pfizer Inc’s manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Sunday morning, launching the largest and most complex vaccine distribution project in the United States, where the virus is raging.
US regulators on Friday cleared the vaccine from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, and US Marshals will escort tightly insured shipments from the factory to the final destination.
“We have spent months strategizing with Operation Warp Speed officials and our healthcare customers on efficient vaccine logistics, and now is the time to put the plan into action,” said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, Saturday.
Pfizer’s refrigerated dry ice packs can hold up to 4,875 doses, and the first leg of your journey will be from Kalamazoo to planes located nearby. Workers will load the vaccine, which must be kept at sub-arctic temperatures, onto the plane that will transport them to United Parcel Service or FedEx air cargo hubs in Louisville, Kentucky and Memphis, Tennessee, respectively.
From there, they will be trucked or flown to facilities near the 145 US sites destined to receive the first doses.
Family UPS and FedEx package delivery drivers, who may also carry holiday gifts and other packages, will deliver many of the “bags” into the hands of healthcare providers on Monday. Shipments are the first of three scheduled for this week.
Healthcare workers and the elderly living in long-term care homes are the first to receive vaccines.
Pfizer inoculations have the most stringent requirements for shipping and storage temperatures, minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 ° F).
UPS and FedEx are giving the vaccine top priority, reserving space on planes and trucks at a time when e-commerce related to the pandemic and the holidays is creating more demand for deliveries than carriers can handle.
Both companies are experienced in handling fragile medical products and leave little room for error. They provide temperature and location tracking to backup devices built into Pfizer boxes and track each shipment throughout its journey.