Mar 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

Shippers ready to meet faster vaccine timeline

Image of a FedEx truck pulling out of Moderna's vaccine plant.

FedEx Express begins delivery of Moderna vaccine in December. (Photo by Paul Sancya - Pool/Getty Images)

FedEx and UPS say their shipping networks are prepared to handle a faster-than-expected rollout of vaccines in the U.S.

Why it matters: President Biden's new accelerated timeline to provide enough doses for 300 million Americans to be vaccinated by the end of May — two months earlier than expected — depends not just on ramped-up production, but also on the ability of shipping giants to deliver more doses into communities.

The big picture: Both companies are highly experienced with healthcare distribution and have been preparing for their role in the vaccine rollout, both in the U.S. and globally, for nearly a year.

  • UPS, for example, has already delivered vaccines to more than 33 countries, and recently launched new partnerships with nonprofits to help facilitate equitable global delivery.
  • Still, vaccines account for only a tiny percentage of the overall goods that move through their networks each day.
  • Adding Johnson & Johnson's vaccine to the mix — on top of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines they're already delivering — should be no problem.

What they're saying: “We’re ready at UPS to deliver on the U.S. plan…and more,” Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, tells Axios.

  • “Our capacity has been reserved for this. All of our systems, including our UPS Healthcare Command Center, are ready to accelerate even faster. Whatever is needed, we are ready.”
  • "Bring it on," said Don F. Colleran, CEO of FedEx Express. "This is serious business."

The bottom line, says Colleran: It's about more than moving packages through the FedEx network. "This is about small businesses being opened, restaurants finally being back in business, people getting back to work."

  • "We're viewing it as a path to normalcy."
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