The rollout of the first coronavirus vaccine began Monday morning, as the first doses of the Pfizer medication were administered to healthcare workers and nursing home staffers.
The process is historic in scope and involves national logistics and delivery specialists.
FedEx and the United Parcel Service are heavily involved in the distribution of the vaccine, a fragile product that commands special treatment.
“The reason we’re both here and we’re both doing this is because we’re the only ones that can,” said Richard Smith, executive vice president of FedEx Express, referring to both FedEx and UPS.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was granted emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday, and shipments will receive priority access at the airport. If a plane with vaccines is ready to land, other passenger planes will have to circle and wait their turn.
This vaccine is difficult to store and ship, and it must be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, in a suitcase-sized box, which carries 1,000 to 5,000 doses.
FedEx and UPS logistics systems, developed over the years, can handle fragile medical products, including networks of freezers.
On Monday, a critical care nurse from a Long Island hospital was vaccinated at 9:23 a.m. ET in a pre-planned livestreamed event led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!” President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday morning.
With millions of vials of the vaccine being distributed, 150 hospitals were expected to receive doses on Monday. The U.S. plan is to vaccinate 100 million people by April.
U.S. coronavirus deaths have hit the 300,000 mark, by far the world’s highest total. The November-December spike we’re experiencing is unprecedented during the pandemic, and it is more vital than ever to inoculate Americans with all possible speed.