Vaccine demand to stress but not soak up capacity


Vaccine demand to stress but not soak up capacity, say transport executives

William B. Cassidy, Senior Editor, and Cathy Morrow Roberson, Senior Contributor | Dec 18, 2020 5:35PM EST

Logistics managers cheering the release and delivery of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the United States are also bracing for disruption the massive healthcare logistics campaign may or may not bring to their supply chains in 2021, as more and more capacity is needed to move vaccines.

In a normal freight market, the loss of the capacity needed to move 300 million doses — the amount purchased to date by the US from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna — might not be missed by others. But this is not a normal freight market. Capacity is tight everywhere.

“The vaccines are going to take priority over everything else,” John Janson, global logistics director for apparel shipper SanMar, said during a webinar Tuesday. “If you’re a next-day air shipper, that’s going to be a problem over the next several weeks and months.”

It may not be as big a problem — or a problem at all — for US truck shippers, but even dry-van truckload shippers could see an impact. President of truckload carrier CFI Greg Orr noted that it is not just vaccines that must be delivered, but also all the supplies and products needed to vaccinate more than 300 million US citizens.

“We recently shipped 30 odd truckloads of syringes across the US, to have them in place,” Orr said in an interview Friday. “And beyond syringes, there’s gauze and alcohol swabs and band-aids.” Those goods take up space, but get less attention than vaccines.

“They’re not part of Operation Warp Speed,” the US federal government’s plan to deliver 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, enough to vaccinate 150 million citizens, “and they’ll flow through the supply chain with less recognition,” said Orr. “But there’s still a lot of planning and preparation” that must be done before millions of people get the shot.


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