UPS and FedEx said they would also affix their own tracking tags to vaccine shipments. And Mr. Wheeler told senators that each UPS truck carrying the doses will have a device that tracks its location, temperature, light exposure and motion. The company’s trucks will have escorts, too, he said. It is not clear whether he meant the local police or other government officials, or possibly private guards, and the company declined to specify.
The vaccine administration kits were assembled by McKesson, a medical supplier that was asked by federal authorities to act as a centralized distributor of the vaccines and supplies, such as syringes and alcohol wipes. Unlike Pfizer, Moderna, whose vaccine could be approved soon, plans to have McKesson package its vaccines alongside the supplies, Mr. Smith said.
In the case of Pfizer, UPS plans to deliver the kits — from a McKesson site in Kentucky — in advance of the vaccine, allowing it to identify any errors with addresses in its system, Mr. Wheeler said. The kits contain a syringe, a substance used to dilute the vaccines, personal protective equipment, instructions and mixing vials, he said.
Shippers have spent months upgrading cold storage infrastructure for the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. UPS, for example, has been installing ultralow-temperature freezer farms that are able to keep goods as cold as minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit near its air cargo hubs in the United States and Europe. It also plans to produce more than 24,000 pounds of dry ice per day at its hub in Louisville. FedEx has added ultracold freezers throughout its U.S. network, too.
Airlines have also been preparing to transport the vaccines, working with plane manufacturers and the Federal Aviation Administration to safely carry more dry ice than is typically allowed. UPS is also sending the agency a daily file of its flights so it can help prioritize them over others, Mr. Wheeler said. The company, he said, is in daily contact with officials involved in Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to accelerate vaccine development.