Deutsche Post DHL’s supply chain division (CXE: DPW) has received a contract from the German state of Lower Saxony to store and transport COVID-19 vaccines and is completing negotiations with other federal states for vaccine logistics.
DHL said Tuesday it will use two sophisticated cold storage warehouses to handle the first 2.2 million vaccine doses for Lower Saxony at temperatures as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius) and about 350 pallets of vaccination equipment. The COVID vaccines and related supplies will be delivered to vaccination centers and hospitals across the state.
The ultra-low temperature storage is a feature of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and German partner BioNTech. The U.K. approved their mRNA vaccine last week and hospitals began administering the first doses Tuesday. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel is scheduled to meet Thursday for an emergency review of the Pfizer vaccine and the agency could give the green light for U.S. distribution by the end of the week.
The European Union’s drug agency will meet later this month to assess the safety of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for public use. If regulators give their approval, distribution in Europe could begin before the end of the year.
DHL has an extensive network of facilities worldwide to support the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries and invested early this year in deep freezer farms and extra cold storage equipment.
DHL facilities can also handle vaccines that can be stored at minus 4 degrees F and at regular refrigeration, between 35.6 degrees and 46.4 degrees F.
BioNTech has two manufacturing plants in Germany.
Integrated logistics companies are expected to take the lead in the initial rollout of vaccines being managed by governments. FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and UPS (NYSE: UPS), for example, will deliver the Pfizer vaccine in the U.S. and other vaccines being managed for the U.S. government by health care distributor McKesson Corp.
The UPS Healthcare division has significant experience distributing vaccines, supporting clinical trials and providing direct-to-patient delivery, with an extensive cold-storage network, real-time package tracking and dedicated freezer farms. FedEx has similar capabilities.
Both companies have also invested in machines to produce dry ice at their main package hubs — FedEx in Memphis, Tennessee, and UPS in Louisville, Kentucky.