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Pence Trumpets FedEx Readiness to Distribute Vaccines

Katie Riordan

Vice President Mike Pence met with executives of hometown shipping giant FedEx on Thursday as he touted the company’s expected role in distributing COVID-19 vaccines this month. As soon as a vaccine is approved, Pence says, immediate shipments can begin.

Even as FedEx enters its peak holiday season, executives say distributing vaccines is a priority. The company is expanding its global network of temperature-sensitive facilities able to accommodate the frontrunner vaccines, one of which must be kept at nearly minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pence, flanked by top federal health officials, said that the first recipients of the initial limited supply of the Pfizer vaccine could receive their first doses within 48 hours of FDA approval. 

“Today I hope is an encouragement to the people of this state and to the people all across America that help is on the way,” Pence said at public roundtable discussion that also included Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. “While we have a ways to go, while we all have a role to play, we all need to continue to practice all those things that will protect our health and the health of our family.”

Health officials say that 20 million Americans could be inoculated by the end of the month. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, the second given weeks after the first.

Tennessee is slated to receive about 150,000 vaccine doses in December. They’ll go to frontline medical workers, first responders and long-term care facilities.

Lee said the state is developing contingency plans should trucks break down or freezers be unavailable during the distribution process, though he didn’t provide any specific details.

“There are a number of things that can go wrong,” he told reporters. “But if we have done our job right, and we have worked really hard to consider what those things might be, then we’ll be ready for unforeseen circumstances.”

The state intends to reserve a small amount of its vaccine allotment in case of spoilage.

Although the vaccine will not be available to the general public until spring or later of next year, officials are already anticipating the challenge of convincing Americans to get a shot. 

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, said in the weeks ahead the nation will need to create a pro-vaccine culture. 

“It’s really sad as an infectious disease physician to see many people choose to leave vaccination on the shelf for themselves, their family and their community,” he said.

Katie is a part-time WKNO contributor. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org