Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY Published 5:59 p.m. ET Dec. 19, 2020 | Updated 8:00 p.m. ET Dec. 19, 2020
The FDA has authorized Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. The first shots of the vaccine are expected to be given Monday. USA TODAY
Moderna coronavirus vaccine deliveries should begin to arrive across the nation Monday, just three days after it was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.
“Distribution of Moderna vaccine has already begun,” Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said at a Saturday morning news briefing.
Beginning Monday, 5.9 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will go out in addition to 2 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, bringing a total of 7.9 million more doses to the nation, Perna said.
The vaccine was being packed Saturday and “trucks will begin rolling out tomorrow, from FedEx and UPS, delivering vaccines and kits to the American people across the United States,” Perna said.
“It is going to 3,700+ locations,” he said. “Shipments will begin arriving Monday and continue through the week.”
The Moderna vaccine will take a slightly different path than Pfizer’s, in part because it has simpler storage requirements and in part because distribution will go through McKesson, the nation’s largest medical supply company.
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After it is manufactured and placed into 10-dose vials, it is transported to McKesson which will pack the vaccine into special thermal shipping boxes. These include frozen coolant packs to maintain the necessary standard refrigerator temperature of 26 to 35 degrees, a McKesson release said.
A temperature indicator is packed inside each vaccine shipment to provide proof the cold chain was maintained during shipment and the vaccine did not get too warm, which would mean the doses couldn’t be used.
Each box contains 100 doses of vaccine and is substantially smaller than the carry-on suitcase-sized Pfizer boxes, which can hold up to 4,875 doses of vaccine and 50 pounds of dry ice to keep them at the required minus 94 degrees.
In addition, McKesson will put together vaccine administration kits for each box of 100 doses. These kits contain the necessary needles and syringes, alcohol prep pads, face shields, surgical masks, vaccine administration sheets for healthcare providers and vaccination record and reminder cards.
McKesson has hired more than 1,000 workers for its vaccine effort and plans to add another 2,500 as more vaccine enters the pipeline.
States and territories send their orders to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including details on where and when the shipments should arrive. McKesson packs and labels the appropriate numbers of vaccine cartons and administration kits.
To handle this, McKesson has set up two distribution hubs, one in Shepherdsville, Ky. near the main UPS hub in Louisville and another in Olive Branch, Miss., near the main FedEx hub in Memphis.
UPS and FedEx will send trucks to the McKesson distribution sites to pick up the packages. The two companies have split the country, each delivering the Moderna vaccine and vaccine administration kits to about half the nation.
McKesson made the decision on which company would deliver where, said Wes Wheeler, president of global healthcare at UPS. “They asked us which states we would be in the best position to deliver to.”
While shipping the vaccine is a big job, it’s not going to break Christmas, he said.
This coming week is the company’s peak delivery period in a year with the highest number of packages ever, but “we’ve carved out enough capacity for the vaccine,” he said. “It’s a tiny fraction of what we deliver every day.”
Wheeler said his staff was proud to be part of an effort that represents “the beginning of the end” of the pandemic.
FedEx was humbled to be playing such a critical role, said Richard Smith, regional president for the Americas.
“This is who we are and what we do,” he said.
Artists Jack Schwab, and Debbie Wilger, wear their masks July 14, 2020, inside the Missouri Artists on Main store in downtown St. Charles, Mo. Schwab, 60, who makes silver jewelry, and Wilger, 63, a painter, are concerned about the uptick in coronavirus cases in St. Charles County, and say most customers in the store abide by their facial covering policy, but a few have left in anger because of it. Jim Salter, AP
Alice Mayes, 92, is visited by her family at Signature HealthCARE on May 6, 2020 in NewBurgh, Ind. The family, from left, Onya Rhoades, Lexi Rhoads, 3, Dylan Rhoades, 5, Kaitlyn Helmbrecht, 2, James Helmbrecht and Del Mayes were separated by a window glass on May 6, 2020 in Newburgh, Ind. The 92-year-old is a COVID-19 survivor. Denny Simmons, Evansville Courier & Press
Austin High School seniors and best friends, clockwise from top left, Brooke Peterman, 17, Maddy McCutchin, 18, Lucia Saenz, 17, Reese Simek, 18, and Lily Tickle, 18, visit with each other in the parking lot at the school in Austin, Texas, on Sunday April 5, 2020. In the midst of a shelter in place order due to the coronavirus pandemic, the girls sat in the back of their cars to chat at a safe distance. Jay Janner, Austin American-Statesman / USA TODAY Network
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