FedEx expects vaccine shipments to start Sunday

By , Daily Memphian Updated: December 13, 2020 2:44 AM CT | Published: December 12, 2020 10:02 AM CT

FedEx expects to begin moving COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. on Sunday, Dec. 13, for delivery to administration sites Monday morning.

The company said late Friday, Dec. 11, wheels were in motion to begin vaccine distribution after the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be the first in use.

“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,” FedEx president and chief operating officer Raj Subramaniam said in a release.

“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: Putting the speed in Operation Warp Speed

Operation Warp Speed, the government-led effort to develop and distribute vaccines, has contracted with FedEx and UPS to deliver vaccines across the country based on a geographic split between the two carriers.

It was not immediately clear where Memphis and Tennessee fall in the split of distribution responsibilities between FedEx and UPS.

A UPS spokesman said the Atlanta-based company is handling distribution in the eastern U.S. and FedEx is handling the Western U.S. UPS has its air hub in Louisville, Kentucky.

FedEx declined to give details of where its delivery efforts will occur but said its FedEx Express world hub at Memphis International Airport will play a key role in vaccine movement.

About 3.2 million vaccine doses are being readied for shipment this week from Pfizer facilities in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Moderna has also filed for FDA emergency use authorization.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be packed in dry ice and moved by FedEx Priority Overnight service supported by FedEx Priority Alert advanced monitoring. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has the most extreme temperature requirement for extended storage, minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

The company’s SenseAware ID service, using a Bluetooth Low Energy device to track and monitor vital information about the packages, will provide visibility into each shipment.

FedEx was staging at Pfizer facilities on Saturday as shipments were being packed for transportation. 

“Vaccine distribution will be balanced among major cargo carriers,” a FedEx statement said. “We have worked closely with our healthcare customers on a highly orchestrated and precise distribution plan, but are not releasing details.”

FedEx lands contract for vaccine distribution in Canada

Vaccine distribution is FedEx’s latest major effort to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It has moved relief and testing supplies and transported test specimens from testing centers to labs, while handling a surge in e-commerce stoked by fear of the virus.

“We are one of the few companies with the global network and capabilities to keep critical supply chains moving during this unprecedented time,” said Don Colleran, president and chief executive officer, FedEx Express.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, FedEx has delivered more than 55 kilotons of personal protective equipment, including more than two billion face masks, and more than 9,600 humanitarian aid shipments around the globe,” Colleran said.

FedEx has committed $4 million in cash and transportation to help nonprofits, including Direct Relief, International Medical Corps and Heart to Heart International, reach underserved communities with COVID-19 vaccine.

Pilots union wants expedited vaccine for flight crews

“Time-definite express transportation of critical shipments is exactly what our FedEx Express network was built to do when it launched in 1973,” said Richard W. Smith, regional president of the Americas and executive vice president of global support, FedEx Express. “Almost five decades later, we are proving true to our founding mission by delivering critical COVID-19 vaccines.”

Pfizer Global Supply president Mike McDermott said, “This is a historic moment and represents a monumental feat for vaccine development and expedient deployment.”

“Outstanding logistics is critical to get our products to those who need them across the country, and we’re happy to partner with FedEx in this historic effort to save lives and put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic,” McDermott said.


FedEx FedEx Express COVID-19 vaccine distribution Pfizer/BioNTech Moderna UPS Operation Warp Speed
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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