On Sunday, December 13, UPS and FedEx officially began delivery of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in America. The first doses left from Pfizer’s facility in Portage, Michigan in the early hours of the morning. This rollout kicks off the first wave of 3 million doses for the United States, and with the help of UPS and FedEx, vaccines will make their way to 636 distribution centers across the country in the coming days.
UPS and FedEx are the Major Carriers Delivering COVID-19 Vaccines, Not USPS
Early on in the pandemic, some speculated USPS would play an essential role in delivering vaccines. However, now that distribution has started, it’s unclear why the US Postal Service isn’t involved. One can assume that the Postal Service doesn’t have the necessary equipment or space in their network to deliver the vaccines, since USPS only uses the outdated Grumman Long Life Vehicles to deliver mail and packages. UPS and FedEx, on the other hand, have access to more updated equipment, which is what Pfizer’s vaccine requires.
COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Comes with Complications…A Lot of Them
Unfortunately for shipping carriers, delivering COVID-19 vaccines isn’t as easy as loading up the doses onto a truck and calling it a day. There are many things to consider throughout the entire process, such as:
- Spoilage: In order to preserve Pfizer’s vaccines, carriers must keep the units at -94° Fahrenheit. To help, Pfizer has equipped shipping containers with dry ice and GPS-enabled temperature sensors. Even so, the company expects that some doses still won’t survive the journey.
- Supply Chain: It’s not just the doses that UPS and FedEx need to transport. It’s also the packaging, dry ice, glass vials, and other materials that face their own supply chain constraints.
Despite the myriad logistical challenges that carriers face, the first delivery of Pfizer’s vaccines was successful. On late Sunday, UPS issued a tweet to commemorate successful delivery:
“It was a whirlwind of a day that was months in the making. To our partners in the healthcare, logistics and government sectors, and to the [UPS employees] who made today’s vaccine logistics possible…thank you!”
In a similar tweet early Monday morning, FedEx wrote:
“We’ve safely made our first deliveries of…COVID-19 vaccines. We’re honored to be able to use our network to transport these critical vaccines in the U.S., and eventually the world.”
Where Can I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
No matter how ready you may be to take the vaccine, you may need to wait a little while. The first doses of Pfizer’s vaccines are strictly reserved for health care workers, and other vulnerable individuals on the front lines battling the pandemic. At the time of publishing this article, a select group of healthcare workers on the front lines had already received the vaccine.
Note: the FDA warned that individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to any of the Pfizer vaccine’s components should wait to take it. On Thursday, the FDA will review Moderna’s vaccine. Moderna’s vaccine was just as effective as Pfizer’s in clinical trials (coming in at a 95% efficacy rate). It is also expected to get approval. Once approved, UPS and FedEx will face the challenge of transporting both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines throughout the United States.