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The Logistics of Distributing the COVID-19 Vaccine in the US

Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. Photo: UPS Worldport

Keeping the Cargo Cold


Active cooling containers and passive cooling containers are two ways to hold the vaccines cold in transit. To keep the contents cold, active containers use batteries and a cooling system. When they are on the field, the containers are charged, then the battery system kicks in when they are in transit.

Temperature sensor devices in actively cooled containers often have the potential to send an alarm if the temperature deviates beyond the permitted range — even marginally, by a quarter of a degree.

Passive containers, depending on how cold it needs to be and how long the journey is are filled with ice packs or dry ice. Usually, if the route has more than one stop, these containers would switch between the legs of the trip to cold storage facilities.

In large amounts, dry ice can pose its own risk. Regulators usually have strict dry ice weight limits on flights because it releases dioxide carbon that can cause aircrew incapacitation.” But airlines claim regulators are marginally relaxing those restrictions for the delivery of vaccines.

UPS said it generates 24,000 pounds of dry ice every day and provides all the dry ice that Operation Warp Speed uses. “We will ship a box of 40 pounds of dry ice to all Pfizer dosing locations a day after the vaccine arrives,” UPS said. When the planes land, the time-sensitive process of keeping the vaccines cold begins.

FedEx Boeing 777. Photo: Allen Zhao

The Vaccine in the Air


According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), thousands of flights will be needed to spread vaccines around the world—about 8,000. As for FedEx and UPS, they are splitting up the country as part of Operation Warp Speed to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as the FDA issues its approval.

According to FedEx, it will deliver the vaccine to the western half of the US while UPS will deliver to the Eastern half. “Of course, FedEx and UPS have split the country into two,” said Wes Wheeler, president of Global Healthcare at UPS. “We know exactly what states we have, and they know what states they have.”

UPS declined to tell CNN how the companies will divide vaccine shipments. FedEx said in a statement that vaccine distribution “will be balanced among major cargo carriers and we are one of two primary vaccine shippers in the US.” Regardless of UPS and FedEx saying they do

MIAMI – Two COVID-19 vaccines are in line to be approved for emergency use in the US. Once they obtain government approval, a large transportation network is at the ready.

Today, the daunting task of distributing the vaccine doses has begun with a 24-year-old @FedEx Airbus A300 and 29-year old @UPSAirlines Boeing 757, both in the air with the first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. As the complexities of distributing millions of doses are immense, the undertaking entails flying over thousands of miles under strict temperature requirements.

Thus, the intricate logistics of the delivery of the vaccines is critical to read more ⇒

Source:: “Airways Magazine”

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