The logistics of transporting the COVID-19 vaccine
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For perhaps the first time since this pandemic began, Americans have good news to celebrate. Moderna and Pfizer have each developed vaccines that are roughly 95-percent effective against COVID-19, and the FDA is working to ensure they are safe for distribution.

We owe a great debt to the scientists, Operation Warp Speed officials, and vaccine manufacturers who worked around the clock to make this the fastest vaccine development process in history. That record was previously held by the mumps vaccine, which took four years to develop in the 1960s. We should also be thankful to all of the frontline workers who have given so much over the past year.

The next challenge is getting an unprecedented number of vaccine doses from the manufacturers and into people’s arms. That’s going to be a huge undertaking. Operation Warp Speed officials said they are planning to distribute 20 million vaccine doses in December, 60 million doses in January, and 100 million doses in February.

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As chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce subcommittee that oversees interstate transportation policy, I’m holding a hearing to discuss what needs to happen to transport so many vaccine doses and the preparation that has gone into making sure this process goes smoothly. This is a chance to hear from the people who will be key to this process, both in government and the private sector.

Each witness will provide insight into what Congress and the American people can expect over the next several months. Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health and the president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers, will provide an important perspective on how states are preparing to distribute the vaccines across their jurisdictions.

We will also hear from Richard Smith, executive vice president of FedEx, and Wesley Wheeler, UPS’s president for global healthcare. Their companies will be crucial to the successful distribution of these vaccines, and I look forward to hearing about what they are doing to prepare.

At the hearing, we will explore the challenges that a massive logistics operation like this inevitably poses. We’re in the middle of the busiest time of the year for shipping and freight, and our witnesses will have the opportunity to discuss their networks’ capacity to move a vaccine along with their regular orders.

I expect our witnesses to explain how they plan to keep up the cold chain during distribution. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be kept at negative 94 degrees and negative four degrees respectively throughout the process, and this poses a unique challenge for transportation providers.

Finally, the Department of Transportation reported last week that it had taken the necessary measures to ensure the safe and efficient shipment of these doses. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses about the guidance and information they have received to prepare for the transportation of the vaccine, and whether any additional guidance or support from Congress is necessary.

Fortunately, the federal government already does this on a smaller scale: The CDC oversees the distribution of about 75 million doses of other vaccines each year. Their experience will be vital as we move forward, but the COVID-19 vaccine will be the first time we have ever delivered anywhere near this number of doses.

From now until the last dose is delivered, we need to be flexible. There will be hiccups and delays. I have no doubt that we can get this done, but it will take many different agencies, businesses, and state and local governments working in unison to do it well.

This is why I called this hearing — to learn about the challenges of such an enormous logistics task and the preparation that has gone into ensuring everything goes according to plan.

I am confident that our witnesses are up to the task. I look forward to hearing their testimony.

Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden may get reprieve with gas price drop EPA proposes lowering past blending requirements for gasoline, rejecting waivers Overnight Defense & National Security — A new plan to treat Marines 'like human beings' MORE is Nebraska’s senior U.S. senator.