In its preparedness for the upcoming COVID Vaccine, the United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) is building two giant freezer farms capable of super-cooling millions of vials of a COVID-19 vaccine. This will help deliver the medicine at high speed across the globe.
As per reports, the facility is under construction in Louisville, Ky., and the Netherlands, near UPS air hubs. It will house a total of 600 deep-freezers that can each hold 48,000 vials of vaccine at temperatures as low as -80°C (-112°F). That’s on par with some of the coldest temperatures in Antarctica.
As and when the COVID-19 vaccine will be approved for use, its distribution across the pandemic struck globe will be a huge logistical challenge for delivery giants like UPS and FedEx Corp.
“This truly will be a historic supply chain feat to distribute millions, if not billions, of life-saving COVID-19 vaccine vials to far-reaching global populations,” said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare. “Lives will depend on us to get these vaccine deployments right, and we’re well-prepared to support all of these efforts until this pandemic is behind us.”
To prepare for a seamless flow of the expected vaccine forwarders such as FedEx and DHL Global Forwarding also have been expanding their temperature-controlled transport capabilities. DHL opened a new $1.6 million facility in Indianapolis this month. FedEx is adding freezers, refrigerated trucks, sensors and even thermal blankets, said Bonny Harrison, director of global media relations in a statement.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19, we’ve been working with governments, medical systems, and our customers to help communities around the world access critical supplies and keep supply chains moving in the face of this crisis,” Harrison said.
Time and temperature sensitivity will vary for different vaccines. Several candidates have had success in early trial phases, and some are more fragile than others. UPS’s freezer farms will be designed to handle the most stringent specifications, Wheeler said.
The Atlanta-based courier in discussions with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Operation Warp Speed team is working to fulfilling the requirements to distribute a vaccine. Operation Warp Speed was organized to expedite vaccine development by pulling together pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. in a coordinated effort.
UPS which is scaling its freezer capacity to manage the demand of COVID Vaccine by building Freezer farms will have its freezers certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to hold the super-chilled cargo.
As per reports, 10 to 15 employees will be needed to manage each farm, which can store a total of as many as 14.4 million glass vials with a two-milliliter capacity, or about half a teaspoon. With the facilities’ proximity to UPS air cargo hubs, the company will be able to provide overnight delivery to almost anywhere in the world, Wheeler said.
He further adds, Freezers are being installed at the farms now, and should be ready to go by the time a vaccine is approved. UPS is also buying some freezers to put in South America, Frankfurt and the U.K., though not in farms.
“Moving parcels with dry ice and critical drug product is not a new thing for UPS. Transportation is our bread and butter,” Wheeler said. “Storing at -80°C, blast freezing at -80°C, making sure that time and transit is reduced to a minimal amount, all that is pretty new to us.”