Watch CBS News

DHL Says 'We're Ready' To Assist In Distribution Of COVID-19 Vaccine When It's Available

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On Friday, Pfizer applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine.

The drug giant hopes to produce up to 50 million doses by the end of 2020. The vaccine requires two doses a few weeks apart. Protection is offered within a month after the first shot.

But the big challenge is how to get millions of doses to the people who need them. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey found a Chicago team that not only knows how to do it, but said it is ready today.

DHL's team said it is ready to go. It's just waiting for the call. And its massive facility near O'Hare is poised to play a very big part in the distribution.

DHL Global Forwarding's 450,000 square-foot facility is about to face its most important challenge.

"Whatever methods we can use to deliver those vaccines to the patients who need them as soon as possible, we should look into it," said David Goldberg, DHL's CEO of Global Forwading USA.

He said the site is their largest free-standing facility in the world. The company already has the infrastructure to unload precious temperature-controlled cargo, quickly categorize and provide cold chain storage. And re-icing for the next leg of the vaccine's journey.

But preparing for a COVID19 vaccine has meant a new set of calculations. For example: What does it take to ship one billion doses of a vaccine on a 747 plane?

The answer? For about 125,000 to 140,000 doses per airplane, it would take 7,500-8,000 planes. For ocean freight with a maximum of 6,000,000 doses on a ship? One billion doses would need about 17 vessels.

"We've been looking at, again, different modes of combination of air freight, ocean freight ,truck or a combination of those different multimodal options that we call use," Goldberg said.

UPS and FedEx said they are also strategizing. FedEx said on average it is already transporting approximately half a million dry ice shipments a month.

With the preps in place, it's just a question of when we'll see them in action.

"We can start any day. Anytime. We're ready," Goldberg said.

DHL already ships a range of different vaccines and medications that need cold storage. DHL also recently invested about 1.6 million in a new Indianapolis cold chain facility. It's clear the Midwest is well situated to play a big role in vaccine distribution.

Also From CBS Chicago:

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.