Wesley Wheeler, President of Global Healthcare at United Parcel Service (UPS), holds up a sample of the vial that will be used to transport the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as he testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee hearing on the logistics of transporting a COVID-19 vaccine on December 10, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Samuel Corum | Getty Images
The shipping giants told a Senate transportation subcommittee that the vaccines will receive priority over any other items, even as the busiest holiday shipping season on record nears its peak. FedEx Express Executive Vice President Richard Smith said the company is calling it the “shipathon.”
Smith and Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Global Healthcare, expressed confidence in their companies’ abilities to get the vaccines to administration centers around the U.S., outlining how they intend to divide up the work.
Their comments come as federal health officials appear close to deciding on whether to fast-track approvals for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.
“Just to point out how profound this is, you have two fierce rivals … in FedEx and UPS who are literally teaming up to get this delivered,” said Smith. UPS will also deliver materials for the vaccine kits such as diluent, syringes and protective gear for medical workers administering the shots.
UPS’ Wheeler said vaccine and dry ice shipments — Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit — will each have special labels with tracking technology inside. Vaccine shipments will also travel with devices that monitor temperature, location and motion.
He added that vaccines in UPS aircraft will be loaded first and unloaded first. The executives said they are working with the Federal Aviation Administration to alert them to planes carrying the vaccine so they receive priority takeoff and landing clearance.
“We are in constant communication with the airline industry on daily Command Center calls and weekly calls with industry senior leadership,” the FAA said in a statement. “We work with industry to identify priority flights and prioritize our resources to meet the greatest demand.”