Following a series of positive results from multiple vaccines, the conversation on Capitol Hill has shifted to the distribution and logistics of the COVID-19 vaccines. On December 10th, a group of freight industry executives, including Richard Smith, Regional President of the Americas and Executive Vice President at Fedex Express, and Wesley Wheeler, President of Global Health Care at UPS, will testify as witnesses before the Senate Transportation and Safety Subcommittee. The purpose of this hearing is to determine the logistics and transportation partnership needed between the government and the private sector to safely deliver millions of vaccine doses around the country.
According to the subcommittee, “Witnesses will have the opportunity to discuss supply chain issues within the transportation network and ongoing coordination in preparation to distribute the vaccine, as well as the near- and long-term outlooks for vaccine distribution.” One of the challenges with the Pfizer vaccine is that it needs to be shipped at -8° C, adding additional complications to the distribution process. Pfizer, as well as Polar Thermals, have developed their own special transport boxes that are reusable and are cooled with either dry ice or aerogel. The dry ice transport boxes developed by Pfizer can maintain their temperature for 10 days and hold around 5,000 doses of the vaccine, and the Polar Thermal box can maintain temperatures for 5 days and hold around 1,200 vaccine doses.
Congressional leaders are currently working on the 2021 fiscal funding package, and they are expected to include billions of dollars for distribution and storage of the vaccines. The conclusion of the hearing should help provide more insight into how the funds are actually allocated. While we still face significant distribution and storage challenges ahead, this hearing is a step in the right direction to start delivering the initial rounds of vaccines to the most high-risk individuals.