Coronavirus vaccine: UPS Worldport hub in Louisville to receive, ship Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Sunday

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine will be moving through UPS’ Worldport global air hub Sunday at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, a company spokesman told The Courier Journal.

UPS said the vaccine, which received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration Friday, will originate from storage sites in Michigan and Wisconsin.

“The vaccines will be transported to UPS Worldport facilities in Louisville, where they will be expedited Next Day Air to select destinations, including hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities, to inoculate healthcare workers,” the company said in a news release.

The shipments will arrive at the hub, be sorted and then shipped out – all on Sunday, UPS spokesman Jim Mayer said. He said he did not know how many doses will be moving through.

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Mayer previously told The Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, that UPS will be delivering to states in the eastern half of the United States for roughly 50% of shipments for the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. FedEx will be delivering for the western half of the U.S.

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This announcement comes days after UPS began to ship kits necessary to administer the vaccine across the country Thursday.

The Worldport hub received more than 1,000 kits Wednesday night, Mayer said, and the kits include syringes, personal protective equipment and a diluent — or an agent used to dilute the vaccine to the dosage needed for injection.

The day after the vaccines go out, UPS will ship 40 pounds of dry ice to any site that doesn’t have a super-cold freezer to keep the vaccine chilled, according to Mayer.

And in partnership with federal agencies, UPS has built a “freezer farm” at the Worldport hub in Louisville that has 300 ultra-low temperature refrigeration units to meet the low-temperature requirements for the vaccines.

Each will hold 48,000 vials of vaccines or 14.4 million total vials across the farm.

“Vaccine distribution is a key part of moving our world forward by delivering what matters,” UPS CEO Carol Tomé said in a statement. “We have dedicated and hardworking people around the world who have been trained to store, handle, transport and deliver vaccines.

“We’re pleased to support our healthcare partners with smart, efficient logistics for these vaccines that will protect communities and save lives.”.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday the vaccine could potentially be administered in the commonwealth as soon as Tuesday.

Beshear announced earlier this month 12,675 doses of Kentucky’s first batch of the vaccine will go to 11 hospitals around the commonwealth, where it is to be administered to health care workers considered most at risk of exposure, such as those on COVID-19 units or in the emergency room.

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Another 25,350 doses will go to residents and workers at the state’s nursing homes, which have been hit hardest by COVID-19 and account for more than two-thirds of the state’s deaths linked to the coronavirus.

The vaccine news comes as Kentucky continues to be hit hard by the coronavirus. Though the positivity rate continues to decline, the commonwealth continues to see high single-day totals for new COVID-19 cases, including a record of 4,324 announced Thursday.

To date, 217,120 people have contracted the coronavirus in the Bluegrass State, and 2,168 have died due to coronavirus-related complications.

Data from Pfizer/BioNTech’s Phase 3 trial showed it prevented 95% of people from becoming sick. Those who receive the vaccine will get two shots spread a few weeks apart.

Contact Ben Tobin at [email protected] and 502-377-5675 or follow on Twitter @Ben__Tobin.

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