GPS monitoring, precedence touchdown for coronavirus vaccines, say FedEx and UPS

Wesley Wheeler, President of Global Healthcare at United Parcel Service (UPS), holds up a sample of the vial used to ship the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, as presented during a hearing of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation of the Senate testifies on logistics for shipping a COVID-19 vaccine on December 10, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Samuel Corum | Getty Images

Location tracking and priority flights are among the special treatments FedEx and United Parcel Service are planning to deliver coronavirus vaccines, executives said Thursday.

The shipping giants told a Senate transportation subcommittee that even when the busiest shipping season peaks during the holiday season, vaccines will be given priority over all other items. Richard Smith, executive vice president of FedEx Express, said the company is calling it the “Shipathon.”

Smith and Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Global Healthcare, expressed confidence that their companies could get the vaccines to administrative centers in the US and explained how they plan to divide the work.

Your comments come as federal health officials appear to be on the verge of deciding whether to accelerate approvals for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.

“Just to point out how deep this is, you have two strong rivals … in FedEx and UPS who are literally joining forces to make this happen,” said Smith. UPS also supplies materials for the vaccine kits such as diluents, syringes, and protective equipment for the medical personnel who administer the shots.

According to Wheeler from UPS, vaccine and dry ice shipments – Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit – will each have special labels with tracking technology. Vaccine shipments are also transported using devices that monitor temperature, location and movement.

He added that vaccines are loaded first and unloaded first on UPS planes. Executives said they are working with the Federal Aviation Administration to alert them to airplanes carrying the vaccine so that they can get priority take-off and landing permits.

“We are in constant communication with the aviation industry on daily command center calls and weekly calls with industry executives,” the FAA said in a statement. “We’re working with the industry to identify priority flights and prioritize our resources to meet the greatest demand.”

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