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Canada clears 5 firms to bid on COVID-19 vaccine distribution contract

FedEx, UPS, McKesson and Kuehne + Nagel prequalify for government contract

(Photo: iStock)

Kuehne + Nagel, McKesson Canada, UPS Healthcare and FedEx Canada jointly with Innomar Strategies have prequalified to bid for a Canadian government contract to distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccines, according to a public procurement notice.

The Public Procurement Agency of Canada, which is overseeing the process, did not explain in the notice posted Monday why the five prequalified. But it moves the federal government one step closer to locking down its logistics providers for the massive undertaking of getting vaccines from manufacturers to 38 million people in Canada. 

The logistics contract could be awarded to a single company or shared among two or more. Notably, McKesson Canada’s U.S. parent company is the designated vaccine distributor for Operation Warp Speed.

The Canadian Armed Forces, meanwhile, also is planning to support the logistics effort. Maj.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu told members of Parliament that the military was working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to help coordinate the vaccine distribution. 

Canada has over 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines reserved

Canada has secured access to over 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. They include the two most promising ones being developed by Moderna and Pfizer.

Moderna’s announcement Monday that its vaccine candidate had a 94.5% efficacy rate in primary trials followed last week’s announcement by Pfizer and its German partner that its candidate had a 90% efficacy. 

Moderna’s vaccine has considerably more forgiving temperature requirements than Pfizer’s: minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.)  

The logistics provider or providers contracted by the Canadian government would take on a larger role in distributing the Moderna vaccine, which would likely get flown from facilities in Europe.

Pfizer is working with the Canadian government to handle direct, just-in-time distribution to the locations where its vaccine would be administered. 

An earlier version of this story named FedEx Canada as one of four companies prequalified to bid on the vaccine logistics contract. This story has been updated to reflect an amended notice from the Public Procurement Agency of Canada stating that FedEx Canada and Innomar Strategies have jointly pre-qualified to bid on the contract.

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]