With people hunkered down at home during the pandemic and doing even more of their holiday shopping than usual online, delivery companies like UPS and FedEx are already facing unprecedented shipping demands over the next few weeks. Now, what Axios calls another "heavy lift" has been added to that task: making sure that, amid the gift rush, COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get to where they need to quickly and safely. Toward that end, in a spirit of solidarity, the country's two largest couriers have "split the country in two," divvying up the task of delivering the vaccine once it's likely approved for distribution in the coming days, Wes Wheeler, head of UPS Healthcare, told a Senate transportation subcommittee on Thursday, per the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "We know exactly what states we have, and they know what states they have."
Per Axios, UPS is going to take charge of vaccine deliveries in the eastern part of the US, while FedEx will handle the west. What FedEx Express Executive VP Richard Smith calls the "shipathon" of 2020 will also have special protocols in place to keep tabs on the vaccines, including labeling with tracking technology, temperature-monitoring devices (the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at -94 degrees Fahrenheit), and priority takeoff and landing for planes carrying the vaccine, CNBC reports. "Just to point out how profound this is, you have two fierce rivals ... who are literally teaming up to get this delivered," Smith says. Naturally, what may have to give is the on-time delivery of holiday packages, though execs from both services hope that people are understanding. The vaccine initiative is "among the most important work in the history of our company," Smith says. (Read more delivery service stories.)