FedEx readies COVID-19 vaccine delivery pipeline

FedEx has experience in fast vaccine delivery before COVID-19

The world is closer to a coronavirus vaccine after Pfizer and BioNTech disclosed, on Monday, that their treatment proved to be 90% effective in the first 94 patients it was tested on.

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While there is still work to do, when the vaccine becomes available, FedEx will be ready to deliver millions and eventually billions of doses from the manufacturers to the consumer.

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The world's largest shipping company has over 5,000 facilities, 80,000 vehicles, 670 aircraft and half a million team members around the globe ready and some new technology in place to help out, Richard Smith, President of the Americas Region for FedEx Express and Executive VP of Global Support, tells FOX Business.

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However, the company's preparedness came nearly a decade ago. That's when FedEx worked with the CDC to distribute the vaccine for the H1N1 outbreak,  After H1N1 the company redoubled efforts to invest more in cold-chain infrastructure and “unique monitoring and intervention capabilities" Smith explained.

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Now, FedEx has nearly 90 cold-chain facilities across their global network where, if needed, vaccine doses can be safely stored. But Smith adds that those cold-chain facilities are generally for a worst-case scenario, noting that’s where you would store a vaccine in “the event of a delay or a regulatory hold.”

The Associated Press recently reported that from creation in a lab until injection in a patient, coronavirus vaccines will have to be maintained in ultracold temperatures of around minus 94 degrees.  A cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain that ensures an uninterrupted series of refrigerated production, storage and distribution as well as logistics to meet the temperature challenges.

Smith noted that cold-chain won’t be the “pinch point” of the safe delivery and instead will be at the administration centers where vaccines will be given to patients—because if they don’t’ have the ability to store the product, they may be left with unusable doses. Should that dose be so sensitive to the environment medical professionals will have a short window to administer them once the package is opened. That, says Smith, will make a just-in-time delivery even more critical.

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Announced in September, FedEx has begun using SenseAware ID, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy to transmit a location every few seconds. The devices will provide more precise location tracking, which will allow FedEx to intervene should something go awry during the shipment process. It will also give recipients a new level of information about their delivery.

Further, the SenseAware ID will be used with predictive analytics, which will give the shipping giant even more ability to move the potential vaccine quickly.

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During the pandemic, FedEx notes they've been busy distributing PPE, humanitarian aide, Tyvek suits, masks and ventilators around the globe to coronavirus hotspots.

*This story was updated on 11/9/2020 to reflect Pfizer-BioTNech's COVID-19 trials.