For the Good of the World

McKesson is supporting the U.S. government’s efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to other countries.



Read time: 3 minutes

As the overall U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to climb and vaccines are no longer in short supply, the U.S. government has committed to sending much-needed doses to other nations throughout the world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and medical experts, increasing immunization rates is key to beating the COVID-19 pandemic. But in order to do so, global health authorities and leaders need to make sure the entire world’s population has access to the vaccines. This will help to not only reduce the spread of existing virus strains, but potentially prevent new variants from forming as well.

And while America continues to open, other countries are still struggling with new outbreaks and growing hospitalization rates. That’s why the U.S. government has committed to sending millions of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. To that end, the government has tapped McKesson, the centralized distributor for the Moderna and Janssen from Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, to help support this new mission of vaccinating the world.

“We’re honored to expand our role in preparing the vaccines for shipment to other countries in need,” says Ana English, senior director of McKesson’s COVID-19 vaccine program. “We’ve already had success in the broad distribution of vaccines in the U.S. and are confident in our ability to safely and effectively support this new dimension as well.”

McKesson has already provided support for vaccines that were shipped out to South Korea, Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, Taiwan and Brazil. In the coming weeks, they are expected to send COVID-19 vaccines to other countries throughout the world.

Because the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have strict temperature requirements, McKesson needed to come up with a new solution to withstand international travel. To successfully accomplish this effort, McKesson relied on special packaging to protect the cold chain for extended periods of time.

“We already had special temperature-control solutions developed for the U.S. territories, which required a longer duration of protection,” says Tim Pawlak, senior vice president of distribution for McKesson’s COVID-19 vaccine program.


McKesson supports global efforts as the centralized distributor for the Moderna and Janssen from Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

“That enabled us to come up with a solution quickly for these international shipments so that by the time the doses arrived at their final destination, they would be viable for use.”

While McKesson is preparing the same vaccines it distributes throughout the U.S. today, one of the biggest differences between the company’s domestic and global efforts is that McKesson is not managing the actual shipments of the vaccines to other countries. Instead, the company is only responsible for picking and packing the COVID-19 vaccines into temperature-controlled coolers and preparing them for pickup by an international partner.

That means McKesson faces a few new challenges.

“Since we aren’t using our typical carriers, we’re having to manage through the logistics for each mission, which differs from partner to partner based on the plane or route being used to carry the vaccines,” Pawlak explains. “This means coordinating a range of specifications, from making sure temperature monitoring is in place and our transportation partners are using the appropriate handling procedures to protect the vaccines, to tracking the time horizon of the vaccines and providing all requirements so they are known and followed.”

And while McKesson expects additional international missions, the company is continuing to support domestic needs at the U.S. government’s direction as well.

“These global missions serve as yet another great example of how the public and private sectors are coming together to support this massive undertaking,” says English. “Whether it’s continuing our work delivering doses to Americans who want them, helping people abroad access these vaccines for the first time or standing ready for any unforeseen new needs, we are all committed to seeing the success of our efforts through to the very end.”