Moderna vaccine moving Sunday via FedEx

By , Daily Memphian Updated: December 19, 2020 5:07 PM CT | Published: December 19, 2020 5:06 PM CT

FedEx Express will start shipping Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to U.S. administration sites Sunday, Dec. 20.

The Memphis-based carrier is working with McKesson, the logistics provider for the government-led vaccine campaign, to transport vaccine and kits for administration of vaccine to dosing centers around the country.

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McKesson, which operates a distribution center in Olive Branch, built an additional facility there specifically designed for COVID-19 vaccines, McKesson spokesman David Matthews said.

As with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which began shipping last weekend, the shipments will move by FedEx Priority Overnight service with advanced tracking and monitoring.

FedEx received the first Pfizer vaccine shipments from the manufacturer on Sunday, Dec. 13, after Food and Drug Administration emergency authorization the preceding Friday. It delivered vaccines to hospitals and other dosing sites Monday morning.

The FDA granted emergency use authorization for Moderna vaccine Friday, making it the second out of the gate among a number of vaccines under development.

After the FDA action, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna said about 20 million doses would be delivered to the U.S. government by the end of December.

Moderna plans to have 100 million to 125 million doses available globally in the first quarter of 2021, with 85-100 million in the U.S.

In addition to delivering vaccines to administration sites, FedEx also is helping transport Moderna vaccine from the manufacturer to McKesson distribution centers.

The start of Moderna shipments follows months of planning and preparation with McKesson, the government’s Operation Warp Speed and state and local officials. FedEx and UPS are working with Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech to distribute vaccines.

FedEx tweeted on Friday that it had hosted Army Gen. Gus Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, at the FedEx Express Global Operations Control Center in Memphis this week.

FedEx won a contract to deliver COVID-19 vaccines throughout Canada and said it expects to start making those deliveries as early as next week.

“The shipment of vaccines to help end the COVID-19 pandemic is among the most important work in the history of FedEx, and our team is focused on the safe and efficient delivery of these critical shipments,” Raj Subramaniam, FedEx president and chief operating officer, said in a release. “As we have said since the onset of the pandemic and our relief efforts, this is who we are and what we do.”

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The initial distribution of Pfizer vaccine was about 2.9 million doses, with plans to reach 6 million by year’s end.

Moderna will get wider distribution in part because the storage requirements are less onerous.

Moderna vaccine can be stored up to 30 days at 2-8 degrees Celsius (36-46 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperature of a standard refrigerator; up to six months at -20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit); and at room temperature up to 12 hours.

Moderna vaccine will be packed with refrigerated and frozen coolant packs in specially designed coolers -- small-parcel packaging designed to maintain appropriate temperature throughout transit, McKesson said.

FedEx: Putting the speed in Operation Warp Speed

McKesson also is shipping supply kits containing needles and syringes, alcohol prep pads, face shields and surgical masks, a vaccine administration sheet for healthcare providers and vaccination record and reminder cards.

The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold (minus 94 Fahrenheit) for extended storage. That was one of the reasons Pfizer worked directly with FedEx and UPS to distribute the vaccine, rather than working through a third party.

FedEx rolled out the next generation of its package monitoring and tracking technology, SenseAware ID, in November in preparation for vaccine shipments.

FedEx gears up for vaccine shipments with new tracking technology

SenseAware ID embeds a Bluetooth Low Energy chip in each package to capture and transmit nearly in real time information such location, temperature and whether a package has been opened.

As part of FedEx Priority Alert service, FedEx has a team assigned to monitor the shipments and intervene if necessary. FedEx’s network of more than 90 cold chain facilities around the world, including one in Memphis, is designed to provide storage if vaccines are delayed in transit.

“Our service and network were built for this moment,” said Richard W. Smith, regional president of the Americas and executive vice president of global support at FedEx Express.

“Coupled with our investments in advanced technology, we are ready to support McKesson and Moderna in this historic effort to help end the pandemic,” Smith said.

E-commerce, international rebound fuel ‘strong’ FedEx growth

McKesson has added 3.3 million square feet of distribution space, plus cold storage capabilities in strategic locations, in preparation for the vaccine push.

It has added new cold storage facilities near Memphis, home of the FedEx Express world hub at Memphis International Airport, and Louisville, Kentucky, home of UPS’s U.S. air hub.

“We stood up an additional, dedicated facility in Olive Branch specifically for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and yes, Moderna vaccines will be shipping out from Olive Branch tomorrow,” Matthews said on Saturday, Dec. 19.

As other vaccines come on line, McKesson stands ready to handle their logistics and distribution as well.

FedEx said it continues to work closely with healthcare customers on plans to move additional vaccine shipments and vaccine-related supplies.


Moderna COVID-19 vaccine FedEx Express Operation Warp Speed Pfizer/BioNTech FedEx Corp. UPS McKesson
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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