UPS And FedEx Begin Shipping First COVID-19 Vaccines Across US

Cargo giants FedEx and UPS have begun shipping the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines for distribution across the United States. The two airlines began their missions on Friday after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved one vaccine. Both airlines state that they are prepared and ready to handle shipping the sensitive cargo.

FedEx and UPS Getty
FedEx and UPS have begun shipping Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine across the US. Photo: Getty Images

UPS and FedEx begins shipping vaccines

Following the FDA’s approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, FedEx jumped into action with vaccine transportation, using its overnight priority delivery service along with advanced monitoring to ensure the temperature-controlled cargo gets delivered safely.

Raj Subramaniam, President and Chief Operating Officer of FedEx, stated the following in a press release by Simple Flying:

“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. 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, especially during our busiest holiday shipping season to date. This is who we are and what we do at FedEx.”

FedEx Boeing 777
FedEx has invested in making sure it was prepared to fly the COVID vaccine. Photo: Getty Images

As for UPS, it also began its distribution efforts for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The airline is moving the vaccines to various states in guidance from Pfizer, which received orders. The Pfizer vaccine will originate from storage sites in Michigan and Wisconsin, from where UPS will transport via expedited shipping to select destinations via its Louisville Worldport facility.

UPS CEO, Carol Tomé, said the following in the statement seen by Simple Flying:

“Vaccine distribution is a key part of moving our world forward by delivering what matters. We have dedicated and hardworking people around the world who have been trained to store, handle, transport and deliver vaccines. We’re pleased to support our healthcare partners with smart, efficient logistics for these vaccines that will protect communities and save lives.”

UPS will be flying a lot of vaccine doses through its Worldport hub in Louisville. Photo: UPS

UPS and FedEx, though they claim that they can handle all the shipments on their own, will also likely be shipping the vaccine alongside other major airlines, such as United, American, and Delta, which have all been gearing up to fly the vaccine.

Both airlines say they were ready

Both FedEx and UPS stated that they were ready to go after months of planning. FedEx and UPS have a massive task ahead of them, giving the sensitive nature of flying these goods. The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept extremely cold, so both airlines worked with Pfizer to create distribution guidelines to ensure the vaccine’s safe delivery to the areas that have orders for them.

Temperature-controlled shipping
Airlines have to be careful when shipping the vaccine, as it has to be kept very cold using dry ice. Photo: FedEx

Both airlines have extensive experience shipping pharmaceutical goods, some of which also have to be delivered under sterile and temperature-sensitive conditions. Both FedEx and UPS beefed up their cold storage facilities in recent years and have planned out the transit of the vaccines based on keeping the doses safe.

The start of a massive operation

The first vaccination shipments will start to arrive early next week as the United States moves to vaccinate as many people as possible. While the process will take several months, it is encouraging to see the first doses go out this month, though the first batch will only be reserved for healthcare providers and those in long-term care facilities. This will be followed up by those at high-risk for complications and begin to make their way through to the masses.

Airlines, including cargo carriers, are excited about the vaccine distribution. Many view a vaccine as one of the only real ways out of the pandemic and a catalyst for recovering from one of the darkest periods ever in aviation history.

UPS 757 Takeoff
Alongside doses of the vaccine, cargo carriers fly thousands of other packages, but they say they can handle both. Photo: Getty Images

As vaccinations start to roll out, airlines also expect many local jurisdictions and countries to offer some clearer guidance regarding border reopenings. It will likely be several weeks before the initial guidance comes, however. Airlines and CEOs have already done their part to push for vaccinations. Delta’s CEO has strongly encouraged people to get a vaccine, though it stopped outright from saying it would be required to travel. Qantas, however, has been very forthcoming that customers will need a vaccine for travel.

Requiring vaccinations for travel is nothing new in the industry. Many will recognize that some places require proof of yellow fever vaccinations. However, it is far more likely that more countries will eventually require COVID-19 vaccine certification.

Are you glad to see these cargo carriers begin to ship the first doses of a vaccine? Let us know in the comments!