“We have dedicated and hardworking people around the world who have been trained to store, handle, transport, and deliver vaccines,” said Carol Tomé, CEO of UPS Inc. “We’re pleased to support our health care partners with smart, efficient logistics for those vaccines that will protect communities and save lives.”
Trucking industry professionals working within COVID-19 vaccination distribution are ensuring that the primary vaccine doses are ready to ship, as rollout plans are secured and prepared for at least 50 million doses. These vaccines are set for timely and efficient delivery though the end of January 2021.
Operation Warp Speed, the initial vaccine distribution plan beginning in a Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is the collaboration between the federal government and private industry groups to develop and distribute a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible. The vaccine was co-developed by both Pfizer and BioNTech SE and has already been transported to 636 locations throughout the United States by air and ground travel through distribution hubs at UPS and FedEx.
UPS in particular has initiated a 24/7 command center in Louisville, Kentucky within its Worldport aviation hub.
“Vaccine distribution is a key part of moving our world forward by delivering what matters,” explained Tomé.
Also taking part in key distribution efforts is Boyle Transportation out of Massachusetts, who sent trucks to Pfizer’s facility location at the start of COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts taking place in mid-December. Boyle, as a company, focuses specifically on medical supply and equipment transportation, and is working with UPS in vaccine transportation as a subcontractor.
Boyle is especially happy to be playing a role in these efforts within Operation Warp Speed, according to the company’s co-president, Andrew Boyle.
“There have been heroic efforts by the drug developers, the clinical trial participants, and the regulators to get this far, but the execution will rely in large part on blue-collar transportation and logistics professionals,” Boyle said. “These are people at the loading docks, the professional truck drivers, the air freight handlers, the package sorters, the delivery drivers.”
Most importantly, Boyle explained, is that these distribution efforts, even within a sole company, are a team effort.
“All the people we work with and represent will play a vital role, and they’re patriots, and they’re proud to help,” he said, also noting that his company will continue working alongside many other manufacturers.
FedEx Corp. agreed, saying these efforts are some of the most impactful its employees have ever seen. FedEx’s distribution within the initial Warp Speed phase takes place among Western states, and that of UPS is within states on the east side of the country.
“This is among the most important work in the history of our company, and we’re honored to be a part of the effort to help end this pandemic,” said Raj Subramaniam, CEO of FedEx Corp. “I am immensely proud of our dedicated team members who continue to go above and beyond to help ensure the safe movement of these critical COVID-19 vaccines. This is who we are and what we do at FedEx.”
Following the approval of Pfizer and BioNTech SE’s vaccines, which were authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on December 11th, Moderna’s vaccine is next to join the ranks, and has been deemed 94% effective by the FDA.
“The next step is the Moderna vaccine, and we know we will ship just a little bit short of 6 million doses to the American people,” said Operation Warp Speed’s chief operations officer, Gen. Gustave Perna. “We’re shipping it to 3,285 locations across the country. It will be a very similar cadence to what we executed this week with Pfizer.”
Experts are staying generally optimistic in regards to the success of these distribution efforts overall.
“I expect that this rollout will work reasonably well,” said Stephen Burks, trucking expert and University of Minnesota-Morris economist. “I absolutely believe there will be glitches, but it’s looking pretty promising. This has been in the planning stages for a long time, and the distribution strategy is sensible.”