On Sunday, December 13, temperature-controlled semi-trailer trucks operated by Boyle Transportation, a UPS partner, hauled the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses exiting the pharmaceutical giant’s Portage, Michigan-based manufacturing plant. It was the initial leg of one of the most monumental relay races ever staged.
By early January, the US federal government’s Operation Warp Speed expects to distribute to the states about 20 million doses, a combination of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It’ll take a village.
“On the one hand, in terms of the capabilities and the complexities involved, this is nothing special,” pointed out Ronald Leibman, partner and head of the Transportation, Logistics & Supply Chain group at McCarter & English.
Because, after all, he said, there is a longstanding US vaccine supply chain, of which the cold chain is a key component, that is highly specialized, relying, for example, on temperature-validated trailers and automated telematics systems (integrated, multi-sourced, data-driven tracking/visibility systems); the whole industry-within-an-industry comes together every year for the distribution of flu shots.
What’s remarkable about this current vaccine supply chain mission, Leibman said, is its “sheer magnitude, and that it’s occurring in parallel to the busiest season for shipping.
“It’s happening on a scale we’ve never seen.”