UPS has been at the forefront of the Covid-19 fight since February of 2020 providing logistic support for PPE deliveries, working with pharmaceutical companies in clinical trials for Covid vaccine under development and finally playing a very critical role in the global distribution of Covid vaccines that started in December 2020.

On December 14, 2021, UPS, one of the world's largest companies, with a 2020 revenue of $84.6 billion, announced that it surpassed the one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered with 99.9 percent on-time performance to more than 110 countries. This milestone was achieved just one year after the first vaccine was delivered by UPS. This was made possible through UPS's innovative approaches, one-of-a-kind UPS Premier tracking technologies, industry-leading cold chain solutions and an expansive, sophisticated, global network around the world.

The global UPS network and dedicated UPS employees not only supported healthcare customers and global organizations but also joined in public-private partnerships to provide vaccines and cold chain expertise to countries with hard-to-reach populations, ensuring delivery to as many people as possible.

To achieve this, UPS Healthcare mapped roughly 500 trade lanes to enable seamless worldwide vaccine shipments and used more than 1.35 million kilos of dry ice to help safely move vaccines. On 16 December 2020, UPS delivered the first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines outside of the United States from Pfizer's facilities in Belgium through Cologne, to Saudi Arabia. UPS coordinated the distribution of millions of vaccines in the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East, and Africa (ISMEA) by leveraging its smart global logistics network. Over the last 12 months, UPS has strengthened its commitment towards equitable vaccine delivery including delivering vaccines to rural areas across Africa, in addition to a $1 million pledge by The UPS Foundation to help India's fight against the Covid-19 surge in May 2021.

In an interview to Reji John, Nicole "Nikki" Clifton, president, Social Impact and The UPS Foundation, talks about how UPS supported and facilitated the equitable distribution of Covid vaccines and what its plans are to work with public-private partnership organisations and non-government organisations to advance more equitable vaccine distribution to remote locations in Africa, South America and Asia.

Could you provide a bit more details about how The UPS Foundation came to support and facilitate equitable distribution of Covid vaccines to low-income countries and rural areas?
The UPS Foundation improves the well-being of people and communities by tapping into its partnerships and innovative logistical expertise to deliver health and humanitarian solutions for underserved and impacted communities.

After Covid vaccines became available, The UPS Foundation identified an opportunity to leverage its logistics expertise and global network to ensure people in developing countries could access lifesaving vaccines. The UPS Foundation connected with partners such as GAVI, UNICEF, World Food Programme, and other agencies like the Africa CDC, PAHO, and, Asian Development Bank to share UPS capabilities, freezer farms, dry ice capabilities and offer assistance for vaccine distribution. We partnered with UNICEF and GAVI to train and manage ultra-cold vaccine movement in COVAX nations, supporting Covid relief and healthcare infrastructure moving forward. We also have embedded logistics experts into countries like Indonesia and Malawi to fully manage logistics of distribution and ensure efficacy of the vaccine. In December (2021), UPS surpassed the one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered mark with nearperfect on-time delivery. These innovative efforts have helped advance vaccine equity in 18 countries across 5 continents.

In India, The UPS Foundation announced a $1 million commitment to fight the Covid-19 surge in India. The pledge was a combination of emergency funding, in-kind transportation movements and technical expertise to provide urgent relief, as well as strategic support. UPS also delivered more than 580,000 pounds of medical supplies across India including 6,761 Oxygen Concentrators (OCs); 5,215 ventilators and respirators, 10,000 oximeters, thermometers and other medical supplies. Through our partner, the Concern India Foundation, we've distributed handsanitizers, face-shields and gloves to the city police forces in Mumbai and Pune.

Tell us how The UPS Foundation intends to work with public-private partnership organisations and non government organisations in the year ahead to advance more equitable vaccine distribution to remote locations in Africa, South America and Asia?
Public-private partnerships and work with NGOs have historically played a key role in UPS's efforts to promote health and humanitarian relief. Though we aren't able to speak to future plans at the moment, we are optimistic about how further innovative partnerships can help us continue to scale up efforts to promote equity at a global scale.

Will The UPS Foundation explore more options to partner with unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to deliver Covid vaccines to places and communities in remote and inaccessible by road, similar to the successful partnership that UPS had with Zipline and Gavi?
In partnership with Gavi and Zipline, The UPS Foundation was able to deliver more than 460,000 Covid -19 vaccine doses via drone to rural clinics in Ghana. Leveraging its logistics expertise to promote social impact includes a commitment to harness advanced technologies to support the mission of The UPS Foundation. We are currently working with key stakeholders to identify new opportunities for 2022.

Tell us how The UPS Foundation continues to have its focus on upporting other vaccination programmes, humanitarian logistics, and other social impact programmes despite the enormous mission for Covid vaccine distribution?
This year, The UPS Foundation celebrated its 70thanniversary. Equity is at the centre of The Foundation's four focus areas of health & humanitarian relief, equity & economic empowerment, local community engagement and planet protection - what we call 'HELP'. We will continue to work with health ministries to help them with training, capacity building and vaccine delivery of ultra-cold chain vaccines until everyone is safe. We are currently focused on helping the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria, to expand vaccine equity. Vaccination programmes will continue to be a key priority across communities and countries as we fight the pandemic and participate in solutions that make equitable vaccine availability a possibility.

This interview was originally published in the January - February 2022 issue of Logistics Update Africa.

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