- A convoy of trucks loaded with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are leaving the drugmaker's Michigan manufacturing center on Sunday, carrying doses of the newly approved drug.
- Tractor trailers carrying the vaccine will make their way to a UPS hub in Louisville, Kentucky, where they'll be loaded on planes to be shipped around the country.
- "We have spent months strategizing with Operation Warp Speed officials and our healthcare customers on efficient vaccine logistics, and the time has arrived to put the plan into action," said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, in a statement.
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A convoy of trucks loaded with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are leaving the drugmaker's Michigan, manufacturing center on Sunday, carrying doses of the newly approved vaccine to hospitals and clinics around the US.
"This is the moment of truth we've been waiting for at UPS. We have spent months strategizing with Operation Warp Speed officials and our healthcare customers on efficient vaccine logistics, and the time has arrived to put the plan into action," said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, in a statement.
Pfizer's vaccine, developed with Germany's BioNTech, gained emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday. The company's expecting to supply 50 million doses around the world by the end of the year, it said in a statement. It'll deliver a total of 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.
The drugmaker on Friday detailed its US rollout of its vaccine, saying it was producing the drug at three US sites – Kalamazoo, Michigan; Saint Louis, Missouri; and Andover, Massachusetts.
UPS said most of the vaccines shipped Sunday would leave Pfizer's Michigan facility in tractor trailers, with many shipments headed to a UPS hub in Louisville, Kentucky. From there, they'll be loaded onto planes and shipped overnight to hospitals and clinics around the country. Most states will receive the vaccine on Monday morning.
The shipments leaving in UPS and FedEx trucks on Sunday represent a "historic feat" for both vaccine development and expedited shipping, said Mike McDermott, president of Pfizer Global Supply.
He said: "We know that agile, world-class logistics is critical to get our products where they are needed, and we're happy to partner with UPS in this historic effort to save lives and create healthier communities right now and well into the future."
Shipping the vaccine comes with its own challenges, as the drug needs to be kept in extreme cold, about minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So the trucks must be refrigerated.
"Each shipper contains a GPS-enabled thermal sensor to track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment 24 hours a day, seven days a week," the company said.
After reaching their destinations, the drug will be thawed, says Pfizer. It'll be safe to use for up to five days when stored between about 35 degrees and 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rep. Fred Upton, who represents Pfizer's Michigan district, praised the company's rollout.
"Tomorrow, on the four-year anniversary of 21st Century Cures becoming law, the first COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped nationwide from Pfizer's global manufacturing facility in Portage. Coupled with an expected Moderna EUA by the end of the week, as many as 100 million Americans will be vaccinated by the end of March. That is real hope," he said in a statement.
Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, urged people not to let their guard down just because the vaccine has started shipping.
"It will take time to widely distribute the vaccine, and we must all continue to do our part by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands frequently," she said in a statement.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo expected an initial delivery of 170,000 doses, while California's Gov. Gavin Newsom said he expected 327,600 doses. Both were among the highest dose count for the first round of distributions, according to a Business Insider tally of state-by-state distributions.