FedEx delivers COVID-19 vaccine to more than 100 locations

By , Daily Memphian Updated: December 14, 2020 2:21 PM CT | Published: December 14, 2020 1:59 PM CT

FedEx made its first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. Monday morning, Dec. 14.

The company said a hospital in Massachusetts was the first to receive a vaccine shipments from Pfizer/BioNTech. The delivery was made about 6 a.m., well ahead of a 10:30 a.m. deadline.

By mid-day Monday, FedEx reported more than 100 deliveries of vaccine shipments without incident and ahead of the committed delivery time.

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The deliveries followed the first shipments of vaccine from a Pfizer manufacturing facility near Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Sunday.

Shipping boxes containing vaccine were trucked by FedEx Custom Critical from a Pfizer facility in Portage, Michigan to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, then transferred to a FedEx Express aircraft for a flight to Memphis.

The shipments arrived at the FedEx Express world hub in Memphis at 11:32 a.m. Sunday, where they were unloaded, sorted, then loaded into outbound planes according to final destination.

FedEx released photos showing metal cargo pods containing vaccine being loaded in Grand Rapids and unloaded in Memphis, and boxes of vaccine moving on conveyor belts attended by package handlers at the Memphis hub.

COVID-19 vaccine moves through FedEx Memphis hub

A large number of 185 outbound flights Sunday night contained vaccines alongside normal cargo going to destinations across the country, FedEx said.

FedEx anticipated delivering vaccine to all 50 states during the coming months of vaccine distribution.

Pfizer is working with FedEx and UPS to distribute vaccines for the first wave of inoculations in the U.S., of front-line health care workers, first responders and long-term care facility residents and workers.

Vaccination of the general population is scheduled to come later, likely in the spring or summer in Tennessee, depending on vaccine availability.

The first shipments were expected to arrive at U.S. destinations Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, depending on the destination, according to Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government-led effort to coordinate vaccine development, production and distribution.

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FedEx is moving the Pfizer vaccine by its premium service, FedEx Priority Overnight service, which is guaranteed for delivery by 10:30 a.m.

Doses of vaccine are packed in dry ice in a shipping box outfitted with a proprietary SenseAware ID Bluetooth Low Energy chip that transits data on package location, temperature and exposure to light.

A team of analysts monitors the shipments for exceptions, such as weather or mechanical delays, via FedEx Priority Alert service.

While FedEx has ultra-cold storage locations at more than 90 locations around the globe, including a FedEx Cold Chain Center on Democrat at the Memphis hub, extended storage is a last resort in the event a shipment is delayed.

FedEx added the capability to store the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at minus 97 degrees Fahrenheit or colder at facilities around the world in preparation for vaccine distribution. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has the most extreme requirement for extended storage of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

In all but isolated instances, the vaccine will travel from a Pfizer production facility to vaccine administration site without the box needing to be opened to replenish dry ice, according to FedEx Express regional president of the Americas, Richard W. Smith.

The shipments began after the Food and Drug Administration on Friday granted emergency authorization for the use of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine. The FDA also is considering an emergency authorization for a vaccine by Moderna.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two doses 21 days apart to be effective. That means the people vaccinated beginning this week will need to get another dose in three weeks.


FedEx FedEx Express COVID-19 vaccine distribution Pfizer/BioNTech Operation Warp Speed Moderna shipping industry UPS
Wayne Risher

Wayne Risher

Business news reporter, 43-year veteran of print journalism, 35-year resident of Memphis, University of Georgia alumnus and proud father and spouse of University of Memphis graduates.


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