LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Millions of doses of one or more forthcoming coronavirus vaccines are likely to be stored in Louisville, the home of UPS’ global air hub, before being shipped all over the world.
But it’s still too soon to say whether Louisville-area healthcare providers will have a logistical leg up in obtaining the vaccine because of proximity to the shipping giant’s hub.
“That would be great if we could get it faster because UPS is here,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, on Tuesday. “I think the details on logistics are still being worked out as we don’t even have (a vaccine) that is FDA-(emergency use authorization) approved yet.”
Atlanta-based UPS is being extremely tight-lipped about its efforts to store and ship COVID-19 vaccines.
“(W)e have visibility into the needs and demands regarding vaccines and testing and are preparing our network to help deliver in support of urgent, lifesaving operations,” UPS Airlines spokesman Jim Mayer said in an email. “We are not engaging in media interviews or providing imagery regarding vaccine distribution at this time in order to focus on the critical tasks at hand, especially as we head into our peak holiday season.”
But the company confirmed Tuesday that it’s building freezer farms in Louisville as well as in the Netherlands to store vaccine doses.
The Louisville facility will have about 150 freezers, with the potential for more based on demand. Each can reach negative 80 degrees Celsius and hold 48,000 doses, the company confirmed.
The vaccine manufactured by drug company Pfizer – one of three promising vaccines in the works -- needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 F).
The freezer farm is near UPS’ Worldport global air hub at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, but the company won’t say exactly where.
UPS has a Supply Chain Solutions warehouse campus south of the airport, off Outer Loop and New Cut Road, where healthcare goods are handled like Cologuard colon cancer tests.
Kentucky’s vaccination plan calls for an “equitable distribution” of the coronavirus shots with healthcare workers and first responders getting them first, followed by “people with significant comorbid conditions” and “older adults in congregate or overcrowded settings.”
Separately, UPS on Tuesday touted its capability to produce dry ice, a necessary component to keep vaccines cold while in transit, in Louisville.
“The increased production also allows UPS to make dry ice available for U.S. and Canadian hospitals, clinics and other points of care requiring dry ice to store vaccines locally,” the company said in a news release. “Dry ice will be sourced at UPS Worldport and can be available next day.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.