A shipment of Pfizer Inc.’s (NYSE: PFE) COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to arrive at a U.S. territory in the Caribbean on Monday aboard an American Airlines flight, the company said.
The airline received a truck shipment at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and flew it Sunday night on a Boeing 777-200 aircraft to Miami, American’s hub for Latin America.
Company officials declined to disclose the vaccine’s ultimate destination, but the flight schedule shows Monday departures for San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Thomas.
American in November conducted rehearsals with pharmaceutical companies and logistics partners from Miami to South America to practice transport under simulated conditions.
“We were able to mobilize within hours of getting the call to move thousands of doses. We know this is the first of many shipments to come, and we are ready to scale our operation as additional vaccine is produced and ready for distribution,” American Airlines Cargo President Jessica Tyler said in a statement.
FedEx Express (NYSE: FDX) and UPS (NYSE: UPS) likely outsourced the shipment to American because they are responsible for transportation of the Pfizer vaccines.
“We are working collaboratively and confidentially with several partners on vaccine distribution,” spokesman Derrick Chengery said, declining to provide specifics.
American has a large network of stations that specialize in processing temperature-sensitive shipments, which are tracked through its cargo control center in Fort Worth, Texas. It is also certified by the International Air Transport Association for having proven tools, procedures and trained staff able to properly handle life science products.
FedEx and UPS are giant logistics companies that operate their own airlines and are handling most of the vaccine airlift for Pfizer. United Airlines has reportedly flown some shipments from Pfizer’s plant in Belgium to Chicago to ensure Pfizer had enough supply for the initial wave of U.S. distribution.