The historic US COVID vaccination marketing campaign begins with a truck convoy

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© Reuters. A shipment of Pfizer's coronavirus disease vaccines is unloaded from a United Airlines cargo-only flight in Chicago

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From Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) – Tractor units loaded with suitcase-sized containers with COVID-19 vaccine drive off Pfizer Inc (NYSE 🙂 manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, kicks off the largest and most complex vaccine distribution project in the US, where the virus is raging, on Sunday morning.

US regulators approved Pfizer and partner BioNTech's vaccine for use late Friday, and US marshals will escort the tightly secured shipments from the factory to their final destination.

"We have spent months developing strategies for efficient vaccine logistics with Operation Warp Speed ​​representatives and our healthcare customers, and the time has come to move forward," said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, on Saturday .

Pfizer's dry ice-cold packets can hold up to 4,875 cans, and the first leg of their journey is from Kalamazoo to nearby planes. The workers load the vaccine – which must be stored at subarctic temperatures – onto the plane they are transported to United Parcel Service (NYSE 🙂 or FedEx (NYSE 🙂 air cargo centers in Louisville, Kentucky and Memphis, Tennessee, respectively.

From there, they will be transported or flown to facilities near the 145 U.S. locations designated for the first cans.

Well-known UPS and FedEx parcel deliverers, who may also be carrying Christmas gifts and other packages, will be handing many of the "suitcases" into the hands of healthcare providers on Monday. Deliveries are the first of three expected this week.

Healthcare workers and elderly nursing home residents come first to get the vaccinations.

Pfizer's vaccinations place the most stringent requirements on shipping and storage temperatures: minus 70 degrees Celsius.

UPS and FedEx are making vaccine a top priority, reserving space on planes and trucks at a time when pandemic and holiday-related e-commerce is generating more demand for supplies than carriers can handle.

Both companies have experience in handling fragile medical devices and leave little room for error. They provide backup and location tracking for backup devices embedded in the Pfizer boxes and track every shipment throughout its journey.

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