On Dec. 13, UPS uplifted COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer from Lansing Airport (LAN) and transported them to its Worldport facility in Louisville (SDF) for onward distribution throughout its network.
A 757-200F (25324) departed LAN at 11:09 AM, according to Spencer Flynn, marketing manager of Capital Regional Airport Authority.
UPS rarely flies out of LAN on Sundays and tends to operate a nightly flight to SDF six days per week — Monday through Saturday — utilizing an MD-11 freighter, said Flynn. UPS added the 757 flight specifically to move the initial shipment of vaccines.
Although Flynn expects additional vaccine shipments to move through the airport in the coming days and months ahead as Pfizer continues delivering vaccines made at its Portage, Mich., facility, not all vaccines will move on flights carrying only vaccines. “It should not be a huge lift for UPS or for our airport, because we’ve got that cargo infrastructure in place,” said Flynn, referring to the regular MD-11 departures.
Yesterday’s vaccines left the factory shortly after 9:00 am local time, and the flight was wheels-up by 11:09 am. Subsequent shipments aren’t expected to be stored or staged at the airport but will likely be timed “with when a flight is going to take off,” said Flynn, so that shipments “are not sitting anywhere for very long.”
UPS has an extra 757 flight scheduled on Tuesday morning, in addition to the normal Monday evening MD-11 departure, according to Flightradar24. It is uncertain if the flight was again related to vaccine shipments, or part of a general peak season adjustment. UPS declined to comment.
While security for the vaccine shipments is a top concern, US Marshalls are securing vaccine distribution in the United States. “The trailer did have its own security escort from the Pfizer factory to our airport,” said Flynn.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 13. The United States government has agreed to purchase 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as part of Operation Warp Speed. Starting this week, vaccines are being delivered to over 600 destinations in the United States, according to a press briefing from the operation’s Chief Operating Officer, Army General Gustave Perna.
FedEx also transported an initial shipment of Pfizer vaccines from Michigan on Dec. 13, flying them from Grand Rapids (GRR) to Memphis (MEM) with an A300-600F (774).
Pfizer currently manufactures the vaccine at two facilities, one in Portage, Mich., and a second in Puurs, Belgium. United Airlines began transporting vaccines from Belgium to the United States earlier this month, and other carriers have since followed.