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Olive Branch distribution facility to play key role in preparing Moderna vaccine for shipping

Vaccine and kits will be shipped from the Mid-South's McKesson distribution center.
Credit: ABC

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis region is once again about to take center stage, playing a big role in the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The FDA is expected to approve emergency use authorization for the Moderna Vaccine later this week.

FedEx first made national headlines for its involvement with shipping the Pfizer vaccine across the country. 

Now another company in our region will distribute the second vaccine.

Once the Moderna vaccine is approved, employees at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch will be very busy.

"These ancillary supply kits will ship on the same day as the vaccine," said Chris Armstrong, McKesson's Vice President of Distribution Operations. 

Armstrong gave ABC News a tour of McKesson's 300,000 square foot distribution facility. McKesson, a medical supply company, is handling the distribution of the Moderna vaccine. 

Workers made the vaccine kits, which are filled with things like syringes and alcohol pads, at the company's kitting facility - then they were brought to the Olive Branch distribution center. Once the vaccine is approved, it will be brought to the North Mississippi site. The orders will be processed and sent out at the same time.

"We have our line here where we will fulfill those provider orders. Kits will come down and we will ship those out. Here's our shipping supplies to support all the frozen and refrigerated vaccines shipments we will be doing," said Armstrong.

In a large refrigerated area, Armstrong explained how the Moderna vaccines will be packed up and put in boxes before being shipped to their destination by UPS or Federal Express. 

RELATED: US on track to approve 2nd COVID-19 vaccine by end of week

RELATED: Memphis VA Medical Center to begin vaccinating front line workers this week

University of Memphis economist John Gnuschke said this, along with Fedex's extensive involvement with vaccine distribution, highlights Memphis' strength in distribution.

"This is an incredible distribution hub. It's really America's distribution hub and we need to market it as that. We need to help FedEx grow and prosper in this marketplace," said Gnuschke.

Gnuschke said FedEx heavily invested in new equipment to make sure the vaccine mission is a success.

"I think the visibility they are getting from delivering the vaccine is extremely important to them and extremely important to Memphis."

Back at the McKesson Distribution Center, they are just waiting for the FDA to give Moderna the green light. Once that happens Armstrong said it's all systems go.

"I'm proud to say that we are ready to respond and we are absolutely ready to play our part," said Armstrong.

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