FedEx completed its first delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech. Footage shows shipments being transported in Memphis.
Memphis Commercial Appeal
FedEx completed its first delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, the Memphis company announced Monday.
“We’re honored to be able to use our network to transport these critical vaccines in the U.S., and eventually the world,” FedEx said in a statement.
The first delivery was made to a Massachusetts hospital at 5:53 a.m. Monday, said Jenny Robertson, FedEx senior vice president of integrated marketing and communications.
“Since then, we’ve been delivering up and down the East Coast to hospitals,” she said.
FedEx will deliver COVID-19 vaccines to roughly 70 or 80 facilities Monday, FedEx Express executive Richard Smith said Monday on NBC’s TODAY Show, with deliveries being made to tens of thousands of administration sites over time. FedEx completed the first delivery well before the 10:30 a.m. commitment time, he added.
FedEx is transporting the vaccine from Pfizer’s manufacturing facility in Michigan to its Express World Hub in Memphis for distribution throughout the country to sites like hospitals and clinics. The Memphis hub “is playing a critical role in these efforts,” Robertson said.
A FedEx cargo plane carrying COVID-19 vaccine doses flew from the Grand Rapids airport, which is about an hour north from the Pfizer facility, on Sunday morning. It landed at the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis around 11:30 a.m.
Smith said on CNN that the shipping effort is not an exacting geographical split between FedEx and UPS. UPS previously said it’s focusing on the eastern half of the U.S. for vaccine distribution, leaving the western U.S. for FedEx as part of an effort called Operation Warp Speed by federal government officials.
“It’s not a clean East-West split, but we’ll pick up our packages going to the states and metropolitan areas that have been designated to us,” Smith said Saturday. “UPS will do the same.”
Robertson added FedEx will be delivering to every state at some point in the vaccine distribution process. Health care workers and nursing home residents are the focus of the first round of vaccine shipments.
On Monday, 145 sites in the country were set to receive vaccines, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said at a briefing on the Operation Warp Speed distribution effort. An additional 425 sites will receive doses on Tuesday and 66 will receive them Wednesday.
“By Wednesday, the vaccine will be delivered everywhere, from sites here in Washington to the shores of Guam to the northeastern corner of Maine,” he said.
Gen. Gus Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said at the briefing that shipments for Tuesday have been packed and checked, describing the operation as a steady drumbeat of deliveries.
“As it is available, it’s allocated to the states,” he said. “The states tell us what location they want it in, at what quantities, we package and we deliver. It is a constant flow of available vaccine.”
On Sunday night, the Los Angeles International Airport announced a batch of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the airport via FedEx plane.
The vaccines are being shipped on regular service FedEx flights with other cargo, Robertson said. FedEx executives have expressed confidence that the shipping process will be safe and secure, using SenseAware ID devices affixed to each shipment to keep an eye on the doses in transit.
Richard Smith FedEx regional president of The Americas and executive vice president, participates in roundtable discussion with Vice President Mike Pence about Operation Warp Speed at the Air National Guard 164th Airlift Wing on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn. (Photo: Joe Rondone / The Commercial Appeal)
COVID-19 vaccine vials are packed into insulated cardboard boxes, which hold up to 4,875 doses, USA TODAY reported.
Many FedEx employees have personal connections to the COVID-19 pandemic. A family member of Bruce Smith, a FedEx package handler in Grand Rapids, died earlier this year after contracting COVID-19, Robertson said.
“He was telling us yesterday how meaningful it was for him to help load the plane with the first vaccine shipments, and we were hearing stories like that across our network of how much this means to our workforce,” she said.
FedEx disclosed in September that roughly 8,500 of its employees, about 1.7% of its workforce, have had COVID-19. At least five FedEx employees at the company’s Newark, New Jersey, hub have died of the disease.
When logistics industry workers will have access to receive vaccinations is unclear. In a statement, FedEx said it’s “supporting efforts to seek priority vaccine access for critical infrastructure essential transportation personnel.”
Max Garland covers FedEx, logistics and health care for The Commercial Appeal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-529-2651 and on Twitter @MaxGarlandTypes.
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