Tester Secures Commitment from Vaccine Delivery Strategists that COVID Vaccines will Reach Montana’s Rural Communities Overnight

Senator assured by representatives of FedEx and UPS that COVID-19 vaccines will arrive by 10:30 am the day after leaving the distributor, whether they’re going to Billings or Chester or Harlowton

As hospitals in Montana’s seven largest cities prepare to receive the first round of COVID-19 vaccines for front-line health care workers once approved, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today secured a commitment from vaccine delivery strategists at UPS and FedEx that Montana’s rural and frontier communities like Chester and Harlowton will receive vaccines by the next morning after leaving the distributor, even if they’re far away from major cities.

During today’s Senate Commerce Committee Hearing, Tester pressed the global vaccine delivery strategists from UPS and FedEx—Wesley Wheeler and Richard Smith, respectively—on how quickly their companies would be able to distribute vaccines to Montana’s more rural communities. Both Wheeler and Smith committed to delivering vaccines by 10:30 a.m. the next day, regardless of how remote the community is.

“How long—to the furthest location out there—do you think it will take to get from the distribution center where you pick up the vaccine to get it to its final location, assuming that its more than the seven major cities in Montana,” Tester asked Wheeler and Smith. “Assuming it’s a town like Chester or Harlowton that have much smaller populations and are far away from these more populated areas in the state?”

Smith replied: “As our old tagline used to say: ‘Absolutely, positively overnight.”

Wheeler replied: “We’re planning on next day 10:30 a.m. arrival anywhere that we’re assigned.”

The Pfizer vaccine requires cold-chain freezers to be preserved, and some rural hospitals may not have the infrastructure needed to store the critical immunizations—leaving them at a distinct disadvantage as distribution commences. If shippers like UPS and FedEx are able to guarantee a precise one-day delivery time, this could be a game changer for rural healthcare facilities. Hospitals will be better prepared to distribute the vaccine to patients ASAP, and less reliant on infrastructure they may not have.

Distribution of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the U.S. will be coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), McKesson Corp., and shipping companies like UPS and FedEx. The Moderna vaccine distribution will be run by McKesson Corp., and Pfizer will be coordinating its own distribution due to the need for their vaccine to be stored at extremely cold temperatures. Both distributors will be using companies like UPS and FedEx to deliver vaccines to hospitals across the country.

Tester has been working tirelessly to ensure that Montana’s rural and frontier communities are not left behind in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, he urged Senate leadership to break the partisan logjam over the next round of stimulus funding for Montana workers and small businesses across the state, and he recently secured nearly $6 million in pandemic relief funds for Montana. As a longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he also secured significant investments into Montana’s rural communities—including funding for production agriculture, public lands, and infrastructure—during this year’s budget negotiations.

Watch the full video of Tester’s questions during today’s Senate Commerce Committee Hearing HERE.