Last month, UPS shipped 375,000 doses of Walgreens-donated flu vaccines to Laos just in time for Southeast Asia’s flu season. It was a move that required significant advanced planning, Mark Davis, product manager of UPS Healthcare Logistics, explained to Air Cargo World, as UPS had to carry $9 million worth of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals across five countries and five flight legs.
The flu vaccines were transported from UPS’ Louisville, Ky.-based healthcare distribution center to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, after routing through Anchorage, Alaska; Incheon; and Shenzhen. UPS then trucked the vaccines to Vientiane, Laos — a drive that took 20 hours, Davis said.
Although Davis acknowledged that trekking the pharmaceuticals 9,000 miles was tricky, he said ensuring that the vaccines remained at 5°C during the entire journey was the top logistical challenge. Fortunately, he said, the flu vaccines were enclosed in two of UPS’ PharmaPort 360 containers — the only industry-certified containers capable of fitting on the smaller-bodied aircraft in Southeast Asia, according to a UPS spokeswoman.
Davis said the move went without a hitch. The vaccines safely arrived in Laos and were administered to the nation’s citizens by professionals from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Critical to the success of the mission were the PharmaPort 360 containers, Davis told Air Cargo World. “UPS Temperature True service with the PharmaPort 360 container was up to the task and performed flawlessly, delivering the vaccine on time, to the right location and in the right condition,” he said.
He also envisions pharmaceutical transportation becoming a bigger business segment for UPS going forward. In addition to acquiring Italian pharmaceutical logistics company Pieffe at the end of 2011, the integrator opened five pharmaceutical facilities last year in the Americas, Europe and Asia. To Davis, such actions speak to UPS’ overall global healthcare strategy.
“We are investing in the segment to ensure we have the infrastructure necessary to not only manage the transportation of healthcare and pharmaceutical product, but also to continue to build upon the 30-plus dedicated healthcare distribution facilities UPS currently has operating around the world,” he told Air Cargo World.
He said UPS sees healthcare as an area where it can maximize its knowledge of brokerage, regulatory compliance, distribution and post-sales, order-to-cash services and heavy freight transportation of all modes. “And all of these areas are backed by our technology,” Davis said.