UPS has announced logistics service enhancements to aid in the massive distribution efforts for COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months. UPS Healthcare now can produce up to 1,200 pounds of dry ice per hour in its U.S. facilities to support the storage and transportation of cold chain products, such as frozen vaccines, in accordance with manufacturer storage requirements.
The increased production also allows UPS to make dry ice available for U.S. and Canadian hospitals, clinics and other points of care requiring dry ice to store vaccines locally. Dry ice will be sourced at UPS Worldport and can be available next day.
According to UPS, a major spike in demand is causing logistics providers to plan for what some analysts fear may be a dry ice shortage, as pharmaceutical companies strategize getting hundreds of millions of their vaccine doses safely to communities around the U.S. and internationally.
“Enhancing our dry ice production capabilities increases our supply chain agility and reliability immensely when it comes to handling complex vaccines for our customers,” said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare. “Healthcare facilities in Louisville, Dallas, and Ontario will ensure we have the capability to produce dry ice to sufficiently pack and replenish shipments as needed to keep products viable and effective.”
In addition to dry ice production, UPS will also launch, in collaboration with Stirling Ultracold, a joint effort to provide portable ultra-low temperature freezers. These portable freezers will be distributed and used in smaller point of care facilities requiring a more permanent solution for longer term freezer storage. UPS will be working with Stirling to offer the Stirling ULT25 and Undercounter Model SU105 to thermally protect critical vaccines requiring ultra-low temperatures ranging anywhere from -20°C to -80°C.
More About COVID-19 Vaccine Logistics
UPS' actions are part of a joint government-private sector push to mobilize and distribute COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible once they are approved for public use. U.S. military personnel won't be administering any COVID-19 vaccines to the American people once the vaccines are approved for use. But the U.S. military will lend its experienced hand in logistics to ensure the vaccine is available across the nation, said Paul Mango, the deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services.
"The overwhelming majority of Americans will get a vaccine that no federal employee, including the Department of Defense, has touched," Mango said during a teleconference regarding Operation Warp Speed, the DOD and HHS effort to find and distribute a vaccine for COVID-19. "That said ... we have the best logisticians in the world at the Department of Defense, working in conjunction with the CDC, to guide ... every logistical detail you could possibly think of."
That effort, Mango said, involves things such as needles, syringes, swabs, adhesive bandages, dry ice, and trucks, for instance.
"Gen. [Gustave F. Perna], and his team ... are guiding all of that with scores of folks from both the CDC and the DOD," Mango said. "We will have an operation center that will tell us at any given time exactly where every dose of vaccine is."
Those operations centers, he said, will be similar to those set up for situations such as hurricanes.