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Kuehne + Nagel lands global logistics deal for Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Distribution contract does not include US

A refrigerated ruck in front of the Kuehne+Nagel Swiss Pharma Hub, Moehlin. (Photo: K+N)

Kuehne + Nagel will provide global warehousing and distribution for Moderna Inc.’s (NASDAQ: MRNA) new COVID-19 vaccine, the Swiss third-party logistics powerhouse said Thursday.

The news follows Wednesday’s approval by the European Commission for the drug to be administered on a conditional basis. The EU has ordered 160 million doses from Moderna and the first deliveries to European countries from Moderna’s dedicated non-U.S. supply chain are expected to begin next week, according to the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company.

On Friday, U.K. health authorities also granted Moderna temporary use authorization for COVID-19 vaccinations as the country contends with a huge outbreak of a more contagious variant of the virus. The U.K. government also exercised its option to purchase an additional 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, bringing its confirmed order to 17 million doses. 

Canada, Israel and the U.S. have also granted emergency use authorizations for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, with additional authorizations under review in Singapore and Switzerland.

A vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and German partner BioNTech is already being administered in the EU, Israel, the U.K. and other countries, including the U.S.

Kuehne + Nagel will support the worldwide distribution of vaccine doses from Moderna’s European production sites to markets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, as well as parts of the Americas. Moderna is relying on McKesson Corp. (NYSE: MCK) to manage vaccine distribution in the U.S.

The arrangement includes distribution and warehousing of the vaccine from Kuehne + Nagel’s pharma hub in Europe. 

Kuehne + Nagel, the second-largest third-party logistics provider in the world by gross revenue ($25.9 billion in 2019), will use its network of more than 230 facilities worldwide to distribute the vaccine via road and air. In Europe alone, the company operates its own fleet of more than 200 refrigerated trucks dedicated to pharmaceuticals. At all stages of transport and storage, the Moderna product will be maintained at the required temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius.

K+N facilities meet global quality standards for the pharmaceutical industry. Facilities that also handle air shipments are certified and audited by the International Air Transport Association for meeting stringent pharmaceutical industry standards for safe handling and efficiency of temperature-sensitive products.

Robert Coyle, senior vice president of pharma and health care for K+N International, said in a statement that the company had taken on the “responsibility” to distribute the Moderna vaccine around the world.

“We have invested in our pharma and health care network and our global team of experts for decades – we are ready now, for when it matters the most,” Coyle said.

K+N’s clinical trial logistics subsidiary, QuickSTAT, has also provided supply logistics for Moderna’s phase two and three clinical trials in the U.S.

Kuehne + Nagel has also signed partnerships with authorities in several countries for local storage and last-mile distribution, including Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Last year, K+N opened two pharmaceutical and health care hubs at the Brussels and Johannesburg airports for the distribution of vaccines and other products.

DHL Express flights

In related news, DHL Express said it has operated more than 50 flights since Christmas transporting COVID-19 vaccines within Europe. Countries that received first batches include Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Romania and Sweden. The express carrier said Italy, Lithuania, Norway and Romania also received second batches through its network.

Besides Europe, DHL Express has also served vaccine batches to Bahrain, Chile, Costa Rica, Israel, Mexico, Oman and Singapore.

Click here for more FreightWaves and American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]