Are We Ready To Ship Billions Of COVID Vaccines Worldwide?
What does it take to ship a crucial vaccine to stop a global pandemic? The healthcare industry is facing an enormous logistical challenge – and FedEx is at the front line, ready to deliver.
We recognize that shipping COVID-19 vaccines will be complex and critical work with many moving parts. This vaccine will aid not only economic and business recovery, but also rebuilding communities and societal recovery globally. We as a logistics provider are keen to make a defined contribution at a human level, as people look to heal mentally and physically and emerge stronger from the pandemic. But as we prepare to meet that challenge, we’re left in no doubt of the immense complexity of the undertaking - in scale and in the technical and administrative (read customs) requirements to ship billions of vaccine doses across continents. ‘
Global scale for vaccine delivery will challenge us
On the most basic level, it will put significant pressure on transportation resources. With our extensively connected network, technology and healthcare expertise, FedEx is in a strong position to help alleviate some of that pressure. But we recognize that transportation is just one link in a complex logistics chain. Responding to the scale of the challenge will also require innovative storage and data management solutions.
Like many companies that have transformed parts of their business in response to COVID-19, FedEx has been quick to invest in digital transformation and enhance technologies and our network is well positioned to ship vaccines with our temperature-control solutions in our cold chain, real-time tracking capabilities – supported at all times by a dedicated healthcare team.
We have been transporting and handling vaccine shipments for a long time. After all, for over a decade we have shipped flu vaccines each flu season.
Temperature control will be central to successful delivery
The COVID-19 vaccines currently being tested need to be kept at temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius from the moment they are bottled until the time they are administered to patients. There is a high risk of spoilage if vaccines fall outside of the prescribed ranges for even a brief period of time. A World Health Organization (WHO) study estimates that up to 50% of vaccines are wasted globally each year, in large because of lack of temperature control and the logistics to support an unbroken cold chain.
In the past three years, FedEx has added ten cold chain facilities throughout our global network. We now have more than 90 such facilities across the world, with more to come in the near future. To complement our cold chain capabilities in support of the vaccine distribution, we are exploring a combination of cold storage solutions.
At the same time, we have significantly increased our capability to carry dry ice aboard cargo aircraft, allowing us to service more healthcare shippers. On average, we now transport approximately 500,000 dry ice shipments a month, which allows us to move critical healthcare shipments, like the vaccines, between more than 100 countries.
Just as important is the emergence of new technology, which can help with the shipping of vaccine doses. For instance, we recently launched our next-generation sensor-based proprietary technology in the U.S., FedEx SenseAware ID, which allows near real-time access to shipment data, tracking, light exposure, humidity levels and – crucially for vaccines - accurate temperature control.
International collaboration is a must
Prepared for success
Today, FedEx is working closely with governments and our healthcare customers on vaccine distribution plans. We are confident in our strong relationships with our healthcare distribution customers as we work through the preparation and prioritization of these deliveries.