Harsh winter weather in the U.S. will delay a planned shipment of Pfizer vaccine doses to Canada by at least one day this week, a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical giant told CBC News.
Global shipping company United Parcel Service (UPS) has temporarily shuttered its massive air shipping hub, WorldPort, at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport in Kentucky because of a significant buildup of snow and ice.
Pfizer ships vaccine doses from its Puurs, Belgium facility through Louisville on to Canadian destinations by air.
“Unfortunately, the inclement weather in the U.S. has caused a short delay of today’s planned delivery,” Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou said in an email. “As a result, our delivery scheduled for today will be delayed by one day.”
Antoniou said deliveries for Wednesday and Thursday “remain on schedule.”
“We are doing everything we can to try and reduce the delay as much as possible and sincerely regret any inconvenience this may have caused,” Antoniou said.
A spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is not yet known how the shipping delay might disrupt the nationwide distribution of vaccine doses.
A spokesperson for Ontario’s health ministry said deliveries of the Pfizer product will be punted to later in the week because of “a major storm developing in northern U.S./central Canada.”
“Pfizer shipments for the week of Feb. 15 will experience a one-day delay from the planned delivery dates. Shipments are now planned to arrive on Wednesday, Feb. 17 and Thursday, Feb. 18,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, has warned that unpredictable weather events could disrupt vaccine deliveries but insists the country has prepared for all such scenarios.
Anand has said that, after weeks of delays and cancellations, more than 400,000 Pfizer shots will arrive this week to help jump-start Canada’s stalled vaccination campaign, and that hundreds of thousands more doses are to be delivered each week for the foreseeable future.
This is the first time UPS has ever closed its cargo terminal, which handles more than 400,000 packages every hour.
A blast of wintry weather has plunged large swaths of the U.S. into a deep freeze, producing some of the lowest temperatures ever reported in central and southern states.