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Vaccine distribution to jump 40 percent next week, UPS executive says

Vaccine distribution to jump 40 percent next week, UPS executive says
© iStock/Madeline Monroe

FedEx and UPS said they plan to increase distribution of the coronavirus vaccine by 40 percent next week, with peak distribution likely to come in May.

Wes Wheeler, the head of UPS’s health care unit, said the courier service is currently handling about 10 million weekly doses but that the figure is set to increase to 14 million next week.

If Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine secures an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, that number will increase further, according to Bloomberg.

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Wheeler told the publication that even at peak distribution, the vaccines will only account for about 6 percent of its 24.7 million daily package deliveries. By May, UPS projects it will handle up to 1.4 million shipments daily of COVID-19 vaccines.

“We made sure that even during the peak periods that we would have enough capacity in our network to be able to prioritize all vaccines,” he said.

Wheeler said the company has bought freezer farms in both the Netherlands and Kentucky for vaccine storage, but thus far distribution has been too rapid for them to be necessary. However, he added, the money spent on the storage is unlikely to go to waste as the broader trend in drug manufacturing involves drugs that require cold storage.

“The shift from what we call small molecule to large molecule is accelerating very, very quickly,” Wheeler told Bloomberg. “The need for us to build out cold chain, freezer farms, cryogenic packaging centers around the world has been there since this market has really started to take off and the whole COVID pandemic has accelerated that.”