Will COVID-19 vaccine distribution impact shipping of holiday gifts?

The race to ship Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine across the United States comes during what's already the busiest time of the year for the shipping industry. Should we worry about sending our gifts on time? The short answer is no.

A supply chain professor says these are two different methods of shipping, but the U.S. Postal Service reminds us the clock is ticking toward important non-vaccine deadlines.

UPS and FedEx frequently ship pharmaceutical products across the country; the COVID-19 vaccine a bit more sophisticated says Anna Land, an assistant professor of supply chain management at UW-Whitewater.

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"UPS and FedEx have been investing for months and already had some of this technology in place -- very advanced sensors and tracking technology that allows them to make changes and intervene and intercept in real-time," said Land.

They're keeping tabs on the temperature of vaccine shipments and where they are in transit to recipients like UW Health.

"Pfizer and the state are coordinating, making sure that they have the proper protocols in place to get the vaccine to our doors," said Dr. Matt Anderson, UW Health.

Those protocols are meant to prevent an incident like what happened in Milwaukee in 2009 when a man stole a truck carrying 900 H1N1 vaccine doses which then couldn't be used out of fear of contamination.

These shipments are much different from the average Christmas card or present. Land says you don't have to worry about the vaccine delaying your gifts.

"We've got thousands of products that we consume daily and are needed at a rapid rate, so this isn't something unique that we need to create a whole new network for," said Land.

The USPS is not currently involved in vaccine distribution. Their main focus is regular and holiday mail.

"We always encourage everybody to mail as soon as you can," said Bob Sheehan, USPS. "Don't wait until the end."

2020 USPS Holiday Shipping Dates for Contiguous U.S. (Lower 48 States)

Recommended send-by dates for expected delivery before Dec. 25

Domestic Mail Class/Product

Date (excluding Alaska & Hawaii)

USPS Retail Ground® Service

Dec. 15

First-Class Mail® Service

Dec. 18

Priority Mail® Service

Dec. 19

Priority Mail Express® Service2

Dec. 23