Logistics set for the deployment of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine

Federal authorities are getting pages from the playbook used in plans to speed up Moderna’s vials during the H1N1 pandemic. Of a corporation

Covid-19 vaccine to thousands of places if the shot is cleared for use by US regulators.

Plans to deploy the Moderna vaccine and other subsequently approved vaccines in the United States rely on McKesson Co., Ltd.

, One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical wholesalers, as an intermediary to control the shipment of shots, as well as syringes and other consumables needed for vaccination.

Strategy is in contrast to Pfizer Of a corporation

Vaccine distribution efforts jointly developed with partner BioNTech SE..

To reduce shipping times, Pfizer ships vaccines that need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures directly to hospitals and public health agencies that are preparing doses for use in McKesson’s separately shipped supply kits. I will.

The Food and Drug Administration’s advisory board recommended Thursday to approve Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for widespread use and prepared for the expected emergency use authorization on Friday.

McKesson is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical wholesalers and the largest vaccine intermediary in the United States.


Jeff Chiba / Associated Press

The distribution program developed by the Federal Warp Speed ​​Operation Program is to ship the Moderna vaccine from the manufacturing site to the McKesson Distribution Center and stage it using a supply kit. FedEx Co., Ltd.

And United Parcel Service Co., Ltd.

Delivering vaccines to sites designated by 64 states, territories, and other jurisdictions in the United States.

Based in Irving, Texas, McKesson is the country’s largest mediator of seasonal influenza vaccination and distributed the H1N1 vaccine during the 2009 and 2010 pandemics.

The Covid-19 vaccine effort is orders of magnitude larger, but it is one of the largest mass mobilizations in decades, including hundreds of millions of doses that must be shipped under stringent temperature requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manages centralized distribution through existing contract options with McKesson.

Brian Tyler, CEO of McKesson, said in a statement on November 3rd, “We have been working on scaling up the infrastructure needed to make an approved vaccine available for distribution as soon as it becomes available. I did. “

“The framework is similar to the one used to distribute H1N1.”

— Professor Julie Swan of North Carolina State University advised the CDC during the H1N1 pandemic.

“Based on the amount and forecast we were given, we will launch several new facilities for both vaccine distribution and kitting, and frankly for some storage. I was immediately engaged in the vaccine, “said Tyler. “It’s a big effort … but it’s what we’ve succeeded in the past.”

These facilities include two new cold chain sites outside of Memphis, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky, according to a McKesson spokeswoman. Future sites will be online to meet expected demand.

“The framework is similar to the one used to distribute the H1N1,” Julie Swan, a professor and director of industrial systems engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, advised the CDC during the H1N1 pandemic. did. ..

The government sets vaccine allocations around the United States. Each state or jurisdiction determines where to go for those doses, and orders are sent to Macqueson. “And it ships outdoors,” said Dr. Swan.

Similar to H1N1, the first delivery of shots to vaccination sites, regional distribution hubs, and large retail pharmacy networks involved in vaccination programs is handled primarily by commercial shipping companies, which are the major parcel carriers. I will. “They do this every day and have a system for shipping vaccines,” she said.

The Moderna vaccine does not require the cryogenic temperature required to stabilize the Pfizer vaccine.

Unlike Pfizer and BioNTech shots, Moderna can be maintained at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 20 degrees Celsius. This can be achieved with most home or medical freezers. Most pharmaceutical companies can also ship and store their products at that temperature, says Moderna.

The plan calls for future Moderna vaccines to be shipped to 3,285 sites, more than five times the sites that received Pfizer Shot, as the government had more time to plan its deployment. Speed, the federal coronavirus vaccine program for General Gustav Perna, Chief Operating Officer of Operation Warp, said in a briefing Monday.

Moderna expects to produce 20 million final doses in the United States this month. The dose is shipped from the manufacturing site to a “filling finish” facility where the vaccine is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. Catalyst Inc, a pharmaceutical services contractor based in Somerset, NJ. Said it is working with Moderna to do the fill-finishing work at its facility in Bloomington, Indiana.

From there, Moderna’s shot is passed to McKesson. According to a McKesson spokeswoman, the distributor’s RxCrossroads unit will truck the vaccine to a third-party logistics facility and then move the shot to a dedicated Covid-19 vaccine distribution center. McKesson oversees delivery to hospitals and other sites, primarily via FedEx and UPS.

Logistics report details

Relying on one company to control distribution for this scale and complexity effort carries some risk. “It will be an extraordinary challenge for a company to supervise vaccination of more than 300 million people through a distribution network,” Fortune magazine commentary last month, retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stabridis. Stated.

Monsef Slawi, Chief Scientific Advisor for Operation Warp Speed, said that the driving force for Covid-19 vaccination is about three to four times the annual distribution effort of the U.S. influenza vaccine, which is about six for a similar period. He said it covers the moon.

Vaccine development and production was faster than expected, but the basics of distributing and administering Covid-19 shots are not much different than with influenza vaccines, so “it is appropriate to use existing features and resources. And correct. Do that. “

Write to Jennifer Smith (

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Logistics set for the deployment of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine

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