Dec 3, 2020
Mike Pence Roundtable on Operation Warp Speed, Vaccine Distribution Transcript December 3
VP Mike Pence held a roundtable event on December 3 to discuss coronavirus vaccine distribution. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the FedEx team joined. Read the transcript of the event here.
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Frederick Smith: (00:00)
You want me to kick off Mr. VP?
Mike Pence: (00:41)
Frederick Smith: (00:46)
Good afternoon ladies and gentleman. I’m Frederick Douglas Smith, chairman of FedEx. We’d like to thank everyone for being here today. We’re very honored to host Vice President Pence, Secretary Azar, Governor Lee, Dr. Redfield, our own Mayor Strickland, and other VIPs from the state government. We’re very happy to be here to brief the vice president, and the secretary and Dr. Redfield on the important preparations that FedEx has made under the leadership of General Perna and the taskforce that the vice president heads, to transport COVID-19 vaccines after they are approved in the near future. Let me also thank the Tennessee International Guard for graciously offering their hanger space for this afternoon’s discussion.
Frederick Smith: (01:49)
Of course, I guess they couldn’t have said no to either you or the governor in that regard. At any rate, it’s a very busy time of the year over at the FedEx super hub. In addition to our vaccine shipment preparations, which we’ll cover in more detail shortly, our FedEx team members are focused on the delivery of personal protective equipment and other items essential to COVID-19 response efforts. We’re also in the midst of peak holiday shipping season where we’re expecting record volumes. We’re so proud and grateful to our FedEx team members, 600,000 strong and to the Guard as I mentioned, for allowing this important work to continue uninterrupted. We’ve enjoyed a great relationship with the Tennessee Air Guard through the years and we’re especially proud of our work during the past year in tandem with HHS to accelerate the delivery of PPE right on this ramp, the Guard ramp, transfer it over to FedEx, being moved from Italy and other medical supplies amid the pandemic. Mr. Vice President, let me introduce my partner and our president chief operating officer Raj Subramaniam who will make a couple of remarks.
Thank you Fred and I echo the chairman’s welcome to our federal and state leaders, and our thanks also to the Tennessee National Guard. The scale of FedEx network that Fred highlighted is truly incredible, comprised of more than 670 air craft, 180,000 vehicles and most importantly, our 600,000 dedicated team members around the world. Ever since the founding of this company by Fred nearly 50 years ago, we have worked hard to build networks, expand the globe. FedEx Corporation is comprised of multiple operating companies, FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx logistics, FedEx Office and FedEx Services each with unique strengths. The power of our networks is such that FedEx can pick up a shipment in most any part of the world and deliver it to most any other part in a matter of days. We operate in more than 220 countries in territories, allowing us to move critical supplies where and when they’re needed the most. It is precisely this power that’ll come in handy in delivering our very important mission at hand, the mission to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
At FedEx, there’s a sense of purpose about this mission, a true recognition of how important this work is. In fact, around this company we are operating with the sentiment that this is indeed who we are and what we do. Time definite [inaudible 00:04:58] transportation of critical shipments like COVID-19 vaccines is exactly what our FedEx Express air network was built to do. Our FedEx Ground network is our ground parcel network that transports day definite packages bought for businesses and increasingly for residences. In fact, the network is perfect for your holiday shopping. We’ve been preparing for the ship-a-thon. We’re handling unprecedented and record breaking levels of volume for customers during this season. We are very much in the midst of cyber week, which is shaping up to be the busiest week in our company’s history. So this distinction between our networks means that each will have the dedicated resources they need to deliver quickly and safely. Simply put, a global health crisis that’s this scale requires a network of our scale to address. I will now turn it over to Don [inaudible 00:05:49].
Frederick Smith: (05:51)
Raj, I was supposed to actually introduce Governor Lee. Sorry there Governor. It’s your state here, so why don’t you [inaudible 00:05:57]
Governor Lee: (06:01)
You know what? Actually, that was perfectly appropriate Raj and thank you for adding. All of the FedEx team members were honored to be in this spot, a great global logistics company. Proud to call Memphis, Tennessee home. You made all Tennesseans proud because of the pivotal role that you play in delivering life saving vaccines to all of America. We’re proud of the work. We’re glad to be here today. Mr. Vice President, Secretary Azar, Dr. Redfield, thank you not just for being here. We’re honored by that, but we thank you for your service to this country, navigating us through a crisis this year. In some ways, 2020 has been swallowed up by COVID. The shock waves that it has sent through all of our lives and our healthcare system and our economy. We’re all too familiar with the tragedies of this pandemic, but today is a day of hope. It is a hopeful reminder of the power of American innovation, of the power of the private sector, the power of a healthcare system. In our state, the healthcare is global. It is a major contributor to the global healthcare system.
Governor Lee: (07:24)
We’re proud that Tennessee’s healthcare system is second to none. We have institutions like Hospital Corporation of America and other great healthcare companies. [inaudible 00:07:36] University, great research institutions that have been a part of this. We’re proud that Tennessee’s healthcare industry has been an integral part of fighting this virus and of developing and implementing a strategy to distribute a vaccine. Not only our healthcare industry, but all Tennesseans. Our researchers and frontline healthcare workers, our doctors, our teachers, our small business owners, our famous Tennesseans like my friend Dolly Parton who contributed major financial gift to the development of Moderna vaccine. Tennesseans have stepped up and this all hands on approach has been one that we’ve been proud of. In the midst of this pandemic, this is a new challenge every day. But in our state, we decided early on to develop a regimented approach. We know that you can’t mandate your way out of a pandemic, but you can master infrastructure. As an engineer, I was committed to develop the best infrastructure possible. That’s what we’ve tried to do here in Tennessee. Three components of that, primarily making sure every Tennesseean can test free, regardless of their symptoms. Making sure that we at the state are partnered in a strong, good faith partnership with our healthcare providers, and then developing a strategic and effective way to deliver this vaccine. If we do those three things, then our healthcare providers can have capacity. Tennesseans can get treatment for a car wreck or COVID-19. Our schools can stay open, our businesses can stay open, our prosperity can be preserved. At the highest level and the most important thing: we can save lives. That has been our strategy and our commitment. I’ve brought with us today to speak, members of our unified command group, Dr. Lisa Piercey, head of our Department of Health. Patrick Schein, our team emerging management director to talk about distribution plan. I’ve also brought along Dr. Wendy Long who’s the head of the Tennessee Hospital Association, which has been a tremendous partner for us throughout this pandemic to give a provider perspective. Our country is at a monumental moment we believe. We’re staring down a virus that doesn’t discriminate. It certainly doesn’t care about disruption, but we believe that we are set for the task. Mr. Vice President, we are grateful.
Governor Lee: (10:26)
I’m thankful for your relentless work by of the Coronavirus Taskforce. You and I have interacted many times over the last several months, as you have with governors all across America. Your approach has allowed governors to have a nimble response and that’s made all the difference in Tennessee. We’re grateful for that. We also, sir, are grateful for your leadership and for your service to this country for these past four years. Your faith not only in God but in American people, has made this country a better place to live and we’re grateful. Welcome Mr. Vice President.
Mike Pence: (11:09)
Well thank you very much governor and to Fred Smith and Raj. I know I speak on behalf of President Trump and on behalf of members of our administration who join me here today. I say thank you. Thank you for your partnership in the course of this pandemic here at FedEx. Governor, I also want to take a moment to thank you and Maria for the way you have led the state of Tennessee through this challenging year with compassion, with professionalism, with ensuring that every family in Tennessee would have the level of care that we would want a member of our family to have. I’m humbled by your kind words for our team, but the people of Tennessee I think can be very proud of what Governor Lee, of what your state government, of what your local health officials, your state officials, and your dedicated doctors and nurses have done throughout the course of this pandemic. So I thank you for your leadership. But we’re here enjoying the hospitality of the great Tennessee National Guard, and I thank you all for welcoming us, to really put a focus on a great season of hope for the American people.
Mike Pence: (12:36)
We’ve gone through a challenging year. With cases rising across the country, we’re still going through a challenging time. We all have a role to play. We’re here to say thank you to an extraordinary partner throughout this year in this effort, and to say that because of the efforts and the state and federal level, and because of the great work of our research companies and pharmaceutical companies, and because of a great partnership with FedEx and other companies around the country, that help is on the way. We are just a matter, we believe, of days away from when we will begin to distribute tens of millions of doses of a safe and effective Coronavirus vaccine to the American people. But this partnership with FedEx, as Fred Smith knows, and as Raj, and Richard and the whole team here knows, it’s hardly new. When we were confronting, as you remember governor, the challenge of meeting the needs of personal protective equipment to healthcare facilities around America. We created what was known as the Air Bridge, literally a global supply chain that would identify and help to transport the gowns, and the gloves and the masks that would be necessary to care for the American people.
Mike Pence: (14:10)
To Fred, and Raj and the whole team here at FedEx, I want to say thank you for being such a central and effective part of the Air Bridge Project and the ongoing effort to continue to meet the needs of our healthcare providers all across America. Building on that partnership, we’re here today to really put a focus on Operation Warp Speed. It would be literally in the month of January, as Secretary Azar will explain, that we received the genetic coding for the first time for the Coronavirus, the sequence for the virus as it’s known. We went straight to work in the month of January on developing a vaccine working with Moderna and other companies, and working through the National Institute of Health. Under the president’s leadership, we identified and secured some $10 billion to invest in the development of a vaccine. It’s amazing to think that while we were still standing up our national response in the early days of March, we literally in six short weeks, we were in phase one of clinical trials for a vaccine. As all of the American people know and as the world has marveled, we now are in phase three and the FDA is in the process of reviewing final approval of not one, but two safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19.
Mike Pence: (15:38)
We anticipate as the FDA does their work thoroughly and carefully and we continue to hope and anticipate that those approvals will come and with an emergency use authorization. Operation Warp Speed is really in two pieces. The governor understands this well. First piece, to develop a vaccine. President Trump would say when he stood up Operation Warp Speed back in May of this year, that it was our hope that we would have a vaccine. It was our goal that we have a vaccine before the end of the year. In August, the president promised that we would have a vaccine for the American people before the end of 2020. As I stand here today, it’s deeply humbling to me. I have a heart filled with gratitude for these extraordinary scientists and researchers, for the incredible work of our HHS team and NIH to be able to report to the American people that we have not one, but two safe and effective vaccines that are on the cusp of approval. That was phase one of Operation Warp Speed.
Mike Pence: (16:41)
Phase two is getting the vaccine into tens of millions of Americans. As Dr. Redfield the director of CDC will explain, CDC is making recommendations about where the first 20 million doses will be distributed before the end of the month once approved. It’s recommendations because ultimately as Governor Lee knows, the state of Tennessee and every state and territory in the country will make those decisions for themselves about who will receive the vaccine in the early going. Making sure that whatever plan that our governors and state health officials determine most appropriate, that we’re able to deliver those vaccines literally within a matter of days. In fact, as you will hear today, Operation Warp Speed working with FedEx and other great companies, is in a position that we expect to be shipping COVID-19 vaccines within 24 hours of approval. We expect vaccines to begin to be administered to Americans in that first group within 24 hours of that. It’s an amazing thing. Only in America could you see the kind of innovation that’s resulted in the development of a vaccine in record timing, less than one year. But only in America with this public and private partnership that we forge with FedEx.
Mike Pence: (18:01)
America, with this public and private partnership that we’ve forged with FedEx and with other great companies, could you see that vaccine delivered and made available to some of our most vulnerable and to those that are working on the front lines of this pandemic in the country. So I’m really here to make sure that, Governor, that you have the full range of counsel from our team. But I’m also anxious to continue to hear the details of FedEx’s plan. I know you’re poised to spring into action the moment that the vaccine is made available and the Emergency Use Authorization is made.
Mike Pence: (18:39)
And what President Trump said to me from early on, was that we wanted to forge a seamless partnership with state governments. And Governor Lee, you’ve been exemplary of that here in Tennessee. And today, I hope, is an encouragement to the people of this state and the people all across America, that help is on the way. And while we have a ways to go, while we all have a role to play, we all need to continue to practice all those things that will protect our health and the health of our family in the days ahead. I think every American can be proud that we are just a matter of days away in this whole of America approach, to delivering a safe and effective vaccine unto the American people.
Mike Pence: (19:19)
So I look forward to hearing the details of FedEx’s plan for delivery, and I recognize a couple of members of my team that’ll cath you up on Operation Warp Speed, our best recommendations. And then, Governor, we look forward to hearing more from your team and from the team here at FedEx, about how we take these vaccines and deliver them at the point of the need. And it’s an honor to be with you, and Fred, you and your whole team. You have our heartfelt thanks for all you’ve done to date and all you’re about to do for the American people. Secretary Azar?
Secretary Azar: (19:58)
Well, thank you very much Mr. Vice President for pulling us together, and thanks for Governor Lee for welcoming us and for your long partnership during the challenges of this year. And I also just want to express our appreciation to FedEx as the Vice President did. We’ve had a long relationship with FedEx, whether it’s related to our strategic national stockpile, or now this next chapter of our partnership in distributing safe and effective vaccines to the American people. We’re just so happy to be working with you. And thanks to President Trump’s leadership and his complete support for Operation Warp Speed. That’s exactly what we’re about now. Which is, the likelihood that we will soon be distributing safe and effective vaccines to the American people.
Secretary Azar: (20:37)
And I wanted to give an overview of how that distribution and administration will work. When we reviewed the early contracts for vaccine development, and we began planning out how we could deliver on the President’s goal, his unprecedented goal of having a safe and effective vaccine by the end of this year, it was clear we needed a modern day Apollo Project, or Manhattan Project, that mobilized the full resources of the U.S. Government, but also leveraged the private sector.
Secretary Azar: (21:13)
We had to solve three challenges, as the Vice President mentioned. Distribution, development, manufacturing. So we worked to set up three critical partnerships. First, was a partnership across departments. Especially with the Defense Department, which brings just tremendous logistics, operations, and procurement capabilities. The second, was a partnership of the Federal and State governments, because the solutions have to be locally led. And third, it had to be a public private partnership, as every great initiative like the Apollo Project or the Manhattan Project were before it. The Federal Government had to do its part, the State and Local Governments needed to do their part, and the private sector needed to do its part. As our great business leaders here know, people is policy. My first task was to find the right people to run this complex partnership. And we just are so privileged that we have Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who could work to combine the efforts of public researchers and private developers. And then, the Defense Department contributed General Gus Perna, who could help oversee the incredibly complex logistical operation of manufacturing, distribution, and administering vaccines. I’m so grateful for all their work and the work of their incredible teams, and it’s just been, it’s a tremendous honor to get to work with each of them every single day.
Secretary Azar: (22:37)
We made it a priority to enlist the military, because while HHS has a great deal of public health expertise, we have never executed on a logistics, operations, and procurement project on this scale ever before. But the key with bringing in the military, wasn’t because it meant that we could commandeer Army trucks. Rather, it meant using the military’s expertise in working with the private sector in directing supplies where they need to go.
Secretary Azar: (23:02)
The distribution of the physical vaccines from the factory to the front lines, will generally be done by the healthcare distributor McKesson, which works with FedEx and other partners, who do the actual shipping. In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, Pfizer will ship directly through FedEx, and we will use McKesson to marry their product up with the vaccination administration kits that Operation Warp Speed has procured and assembled, over 100 million assembled already.
Secretary Azar: (23:32)
States are in charge of telling us where those vaccines should be shipped. They’ve been working on their plans with CDC for several months now, and as Dr. Redfield will explain in more detail, states can use the recommendations of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the advice of the National Academies of Science, and their own best judgment, to develop the best allocation plan for their own citizens and situations. States have different circumstances and are in different epidemiological situations, and state leaders like Governor Lee, are in the best position to take these general national recommendations, and translate them into more precise guidance that fits their state and their conditions.
Secretary Azar: (24:13)
In general, states will be giving us information about providers to whom we’ll ship vaccines. Pharmacy partners, hospitals, community health centers, and the like. We’ve reached agreements with pharmacy chains and independent pharmacy networks so that states can have products shipped directly to them, where those private partners will handle administration. That includes, for instance, an agreement with CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccinations at our longterm care facilities. Those are our nursing homes. We’ve paid for the vaccines, we paid for the shipping costs, and the administration costs for these private sector partners will be covered by healthcare payers, private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and our program, to cover COVID-19 expenses for the uninsured.
Secretary Azar: (24:55)
To give you a sense of numbers, the first week’s allocations for the two vaccines with data submitted to the FDA, are approximately 6.4 million doses of Pfizer, and 12.5 million doses of Moderna. Those are tentative numbers based on our best assessment of how many doses will be ready to ship when an Emergency Use Authorization could be announced. We’ll send half of those doses initially, to ensure that the second dose requirements are available 21 and 28 days later. Jurisdictions have received the numbers they’ll get from this allocation in the Tiberius platform that we’ve constructed, which is also where they’re going to tell us where to send vaccines.After that initial shipment, we expect to make weekly allocations. And we expect, as the Vice President said, to have 40 million doses to cover 20 million Americans by the end of December.
Secretary Azar: (25:48)
And finally, if I could just give a commercial message here. I want to mention that many Americans can play a role in our fight against COVID-19, by donating convalescent plasma, a promising treatment for the disease. If you are within three months of recovering from COVID-19, you have the chance to donate plasma and you could help save a life. Over 250,000 courses of convalescent plasma have been administered to Americans to help prevent severe consequences from COVID-19. Millions and millions and millions of Americans have recovered from COVID-19 in the last several months, and they could be eligible to donate. Please contact the American Red Cross or your local Blood Bank, or go to coronavirus.gov for more information about how you can volunteer and give the gift of life.
Secretary Azar: (26:44)
Thanks to the President’s leadership and support of Operation Warp Speed, as the Vice President said, we’ve got such a bright future ahead of us. The end is near, but we need you to hang with us. Stay with us a bit more, as we bridge to that bright future. Because of Operation Warp Speed, the President, and the Vice President’s leadership, hope and help are on the way. Thank you all for joining us for this round table today. Mr. Vice President, thank you for convening us and I look forward to continued work with our partners here today to make that bright future a reality. And now, I’ll turn it over to Richard Smith, who’s the Regional President of the Americas, and Executive Vice President of FedEx Express, for a continuation of some of the details of what FedEx is doing for us.
Speaker 1: (27:28)
Richard, you may want to let Don make a couple of opening remarks.
Richard Smith: (27:28)
I know. Yeah.
Speaker 1: (27:28)
Richard Smith: (27:32)
Thanks, Secretary Azar. FedEx is honored to work with you and your team on Operation Warp Speed and other initiatives this year, to bring PPE and healthcare resources into the United States. We’ve spent decades building out this incredible feat of industrial engineering that we call the FedEx Express Network, which is the key to doing what we do so well and what we will do in this distribution effort to aid the American public. I would like to hand it over to my boss, the CEO of FedEx Express, Don Colleran, to talk a little bit more about that network, and then I’ll pick back up from there.
Don Colleran: (28:06)
Thank you, Richard. We’re honored, Sir, to have you, Vice President Pence, Secretary Azar, Governor Lee, Director Redfield, and our friends from the State of Tennessee, with us here today in Memphis. You’re in our worldwide hub, and as you can see as you arrived here today, this is the heartbeat of our global operation. We have over 250, 000 Express team members worldwide, and they’re so very proud of the role that they played right from the beginning of this pandemic, and have committed to do right to the very end. And we’re so ready to handle the expedient delivery of this COVID-19 vaccine.
Don Colleran: (28:51)
It goes without saying, it’s been one of the most challenging years in our history. But also the most rewarding, because it truly validates our purpose in the recovery of so many families, communities, and even countries. A team of two heroes, true heroes, that I’m proud to serve with, that have stepped up in so many ways to support the communities where they both live and work.
Don Colleran: (29:13)
Now, as a pioneer of the express delivery system, FedEx Express has a long history of supporting relief efforts whenever a disaster strikes anywhere in the globe. We truly see it as our purpose and responsibility to use the massive resources we have during times of good times and bad times, to relieve those efforts. It’s truly our culture. We have a unique air and ground network comprised of almost 700 aircraft, the largest all cargo airline in the world, I might add. Almost 80,000 motorized vehicles, 2,000 stations around the globe, and we’re in over 220 countries and territories around the world.
Don Colleran: (29:59)
Now with Express, we have extensive experience in handling the dedicated services required for shipping sensitive healthcare goods, and we’ve been diligently planning with our healthcare customers, with federal, state, and local officials, to support this vaccine distribution. It’s truly teamwork at its best. So ladies and gentlemen, FedEx Express is ready, and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity. As Ri says, it’s who we are and what we do. So with that, I’d like to turn it back over to Richard Smith, our President of the Americans and EVP of Global Support, with some details. And he’s really at the heartbeat of what we’re doing here at FedEx Express, to assist in any way we can in the movement of these vaccines.
Richard Smith: (30:48)
Thank you, Don. First of all, I’d like to echo my boss and my chain of command here, in thanking our FedEx team members both here in the Americas and around the world, for their outstanding work in the midst of the most challenging year for the transportation industry in modern times. They are absolutely, positively, the best in the business, and our heroes. Over the past year, as Rog alluded to, we’ve adopted a new motto at FedEx. This is who we are and what we do. FedEx has a longstanding relationship with the Federal Government, and is a proud member of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet Volunteer Program.
Richard Smith: (31:24)
We also deliver relief both here and abroad in communities in need, via our FedEx Cares Initiative, and through partnerships with Heart to Heart, American Red Cross, and many other humanitarian organizations. And recently, we committed an initial $3 million in funding and transportation to help several nonprofits reach underserved communities with the COVID vaccine. FedEx has played a vital role in the fight against this deadly pandemic to date, having globally shipped more than 55 kilotons of personal protective equipment, including more than 2 billion masks, between February 1st and the end of November.
Richard Smith: (31:59)
This includes some of the first PPE and healthcare equipment going in to Wuhan, China at the outset of the pandemic, when there was very little being moved into that area. And we have continued to help keep critical supplies flowing around the globe ever since to aid in this fight. We also helped to stand up, and supported shipments from the first COVID-19 testing centers in the United States this Spring, and transported more than 4.5 million Tyvek protective suits in collaboration with HHS and DuPont earlier this year, getting them to frontline healthcare workers in the midst of fighting this pandemic.
Richard Smith: (32:39)
We’ve done all of this while keeping team member and customer safety our highest priority. And we will continue to do that as vaccine distribution begins. Safety above all, our FedEx mantra in this regard, means just that. Our healthcare customers and the federal and state governments we work with, look to us to move these vaccines to the administration sites as quickly and safely as possible. Precisely what our integrated air ground network was designed to do from its inception and humble beginnings, right here in Memphis, Tennessee back in 1973.
Richard Smith: (33:13)
We’ve spent the years since then building out that network as Don described, and developing our specialized life sciences capabilities along the way, to ensure proper conditions are met to transport critical shipments like pharmaceuticals and vaccines. Along those lines, we have more than 90 cold chain facilities on five continents, that will be ready if necessary, where we can stage temperature sensitive product, and have plans to expand that number to 115 locations next year. We’ve also recently rolled out the latest in realtime tracking technology to monitor, and if needed, intercede the shipments in the event of unforeseen challenges, like weather events or on road delays due to traffic.
Richard Smith: (33:55)
This is our SenseAware Bluetooth Low Energy Solution, which we will be using for this very vaccine distribution. The SenseAware tag is affixed to the box by our couriers when they pick up the shipment, in this little pouch here. And we have a dedicated and experienced healthcare team in our Priority Alert Division, to use this technology in a platform we call FedEx Surround, that uses predictive analytics to inform these agents of exception events before they occur, so that they can jump into action. They’re monitoring them 24/7, 365, around the clock. And you can think of them as FedEx guardian angels, actively watching these vaccines as they transit our network. This is a patented solution, and the latest and greatest in positive control technology.
Richard Smith: (34:45)
Make no mistake Mr. Vice President, these vaccines will have the highest priority of anything carried in our network, and we are committed to their successful distribution. You have my assurance on that. I would be remiss, since we are here in Memphis, and the Governor came here not too long ago, to talk about our Memphis hub modernization, if I didn’t just touch on the Memphis hub here. You’ll be happy as well, to know Mr. Vice President, that we have a similar hub modernization effort going in Indianapolis. And we’re spending significant capital in both states, to modernize these major sort locations.
Richard Smith: (35:21)
But our world hub here in Memphis, covers approximately 880 acres, and has a workforce of 11,000 team members. More than 10,000 flights pass through the hub each month. And we average 2.2 million packages through the facility daily, processing 47% of the total Express volume and 69% of our Domestic volume here in this very facility. The hub contains more than 84 miles of conveyor belts, and the automated package sorting systems are capable of processing half a million packages per hour. Due to our customer demand, we’re investing the $1.5 billion in capital here between calendar year ’19 when we kicked this off, and calendar year ’28, when the project will end, to modernize this facility. Our customers will
Richard Smith: (36:03)
-and to modernize this facility. Our customers will benefit from a faster sort, faster plane launches, and other improvements for better service. Modernization will also help to attract and retain talented team members, as we are already the largest employer in the Memphis area. More technical support positions are likely to be created to facilitate the installation, operation, and maintenance of more advanced sort systems, and the multi-year project will support significant vendor and construction jobs here. Most importantly, the modernization will help us become safer and more efficient and even better positioned to serve our communities in times of need like we have seen this year. So thank you again, and I will now turn it over to CDC director Dr. Bob Redfield for his remarks.
Mike Pence: (36:45)
Before we turn to the healthcare experts, let me just take the opportunity to say thank you again to the FedEx team. But Don, I love what you said when it comes to FedEx’s role, meeting this moment in the life of our nation, meeting crises around the world. You said, “This is who we are. This is what we do.”
Mike Pence: (37:14)
When we started to get word, the secretary remembers, about the possibility, the prospect that we would have a vaccine before the end of the year, people understandably asked, they said, “Well, it’s one thing about developing a vaccine. It’s another thing about distributing it to millions of Americans.” Because of what President Trump initiated, not just a whole of government approach, but a whole of America approach, because of the partnership that we’ve had with Fedex and other companies, you’ve made it possible for us to meet the needs of our healthcare workers with PPE. You’ve made it possible, and you will in the days ahead make it possible for us to deliver those 40 million doses to 20 million patients.
Mike Pence: (37:55)
On behalf of the president and on behalf of a grateful nation, before we turn to the healthcare experts here present for their best advice for you, Governor, and for our team, I just wanted to pay a debt of gratitude to each and every one of you. This is a remarkable American company, but for all that you’ve accomplished economically, the heart of this company has really shined forth over the last ten months. We’re all truly grateful for what you’ve done, past, present, and future. So thank you very much, and God bless you for it.
Richard Smith: (38:24)
Mike Pence: (38:24)
Dr. Redfield: (38:36)
Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. As you’ve heard, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We are going to have a safe and efficacious vaccine, and it’s coming to Tennessee and the rest of the nation very soon. This is a game-changer. As our nation embraces the COVID-19 vaccine with confidence, states will begin to place orders for this vaccine by the end of this week. The CDC has been working very closely with all 64 jurisdictions as they develop their plans to how to operationalize this vaccine from delivery and to actually accomplishing vaccination of individuals throughout our nation.
Dr. Redfield: (39:22)
In reviewing the Tennessee plan, it’s clear that they’ve taken a very thoughtful approach to prioritizing this vaccine. As Secretary Azar said and the vice president said, the ACIT and the National Academy of Science, CDC, we make recommendations, but the ultimate decision to how to prioritize this vaccine for the men and women in Tennessee is Dr. Piercey and Governor Lee and the broader team.
Dr. Redfield: (39:52)
Since July until they finalized it, I think if I remember, October 14th, they’ve really put together one of the most comprehensive vaccine plans that I’ve seen in all 64 jurisdictions as you begin to prioritize how to put this vaccine from distribution into a vaccination for the men and women in Tennessee and do it, as I read your plan, grounded in the concept of cross-cutting equity and with your decisions about focusing on a variety of points of dispensement throughout the state supported by the health department to guarantee that this vaccine is not just begun to be distributed when this is available in the next couple weeks, but it’s done in an equitable way to the people of Tennessee. So Lisa, you know I have great respect for what you’ve done.
Dr. Redfield: (40:50)
One of the areas I want to spend a second on, though, that is a challenge for us now that you’ve heard from Secretary Azar, really, and the vice president how remarkable it was that this vaccine is available within a year of identifying this new pathogen. Normally, it takes four years, six years for this to happen. It is a remarkable accomplishment. But one of the challenges we have is to see if we have an environment in which the American people want to take the vaccine.
Dr. Redfield: (41:20)
There’s been a great deal of challenge over the years with this growing concern of what I call vaccine hesitancy, and one of the things I can ask all of you to play a key role in helping over the weeks ahead and helping us to create a culture in this nation that’s grounded in vaccine confidence. We’ll do that by restoring trust in vaccines. They’re the most important gift from science to modern medicine. It’s really sad, as an infectious disease physician, to see many people choose to leave vaccination on the shelf for themselves, their family, and their community. We empower healthcare providers to really become promoters of vaccination and finally engage communities to do just the same.
Dr. Redfield: (42:03)
In closing, I just want to say it’s an exciting time. We are now at the forefront of distributing the COVID vaccine. As you hear, we have a lot to do to actually get this. But I’m confident that the planning that’s gone into this since last spring, the planning that we’ve heard that private partners like FedEx have put into this, that we are going to progressively provide a safe and efficacious vaccine for COVID to the American public in the weeks ahead.
Dr. Redfield: (42:37)
I want to just close by just reminding people, though, that this is the greatest public health crisis that this nation has faced in more than 100 years, and while we wait for the vaccine to be distributed, we are not defenseless. We have very, very, very powerful weapons against this vaccine, and that’s the mitigation steps that we continue to put out. Wearing a mask, this actually works. It’s an exceptional defense against COVID. Social distancing, being smart about crowds, washing your hands, spending time outside, rather than inside.
Dr. Redfield: (43:14)
So as we get closer to the goal line and we prepare to deliver the vaccine, it’s just important to encourage the American public not to let down their guard, not in the public square and not in the safety of their own home gatherings, to wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, be smart about crowds. So thank you very much.
Lisa Piercey: (43:40)
Thank you, Director Redfield, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Azar. I’m Lisa Piercey. I’m the Commissioner of Health for the State of Tennessee. I want to tell you a little bit about our preparation efforts, as well as how we are mitigating disparities and promoting equity, as you mentioned, Director. We know that the only way to get our society back to normal is through mass vaccination. We’ve been reassured by the safety data, and we’re encouraged by the efficacy results that we’ve seen so far.
Lisa Piercey: (44:07)
One of our keys to preparation has been robust engagement of a diverse pandemic vaccine stakeholder group. They’ve been focusing on impactful and equitable allocation, as well as they’ll serve a critical role in disseminating communications to their vast networks of stakeholders so we can ensure a transparent and equitable allocation and distribution process.
Lisa Piercey: (44:31)
Let me reassure you, Tennessee has been preparing for this moment for years. We’ve been doing annual pandemic vaccine exercises every year for the last few years with Fight Flu Tennessee. Our most recent one was just a couple of weeks ago on November 19th, and in addition to delivering the vaccine, we also practice the enhanced documentation requirements that are going to be needed for COVID-19.
Lisa Piercey: (44:57)
Our first priority population will follow ACIP recommendations to include frontline healthcare workers, first responders, and long-term care residents and staff. As we continue to face increasing strain on our hospital capacity, much like the rest of the nation, we know that a swift delivery of vaccine will help us maintain capacity as well as reduce demand on hospitalizations. So therefore, our goal is to immunize as many in this first phase as quickly as possible and to minimize waste. We’re going to be able to do this through leveraging our partnerships not only with the hospital association, but with our long-term care community.
Lisa Piercey: (45:36)
Our other priority focus here, as you mentioned, Director Redfield, is building trust and eliminating disparities in minority and vulnerable populations. Tennessee was one of the first states to develop a Health Disparities Taskforce that was formed to support and create solutions for these vulnerable communities. We know that transparency is significant in building trust, so we’ve engaged hundreds of faith-based, community, and academic partners to help identify and overcome the barriers and challenges, particularly in the minority population. We’re especially grateful for the FQHC partnerships here right here in Memphis.
Lisa Piercey: (46:17)
We’ve hosted multiple listening sessions, and we have recognized significant vaccine hesitancy. So we have engaged leaders to help us establish trust and deliver those messages. We’ve utilized local experts and leaders from across the state to be trusted messengers. Recently, Dr. James Hildreth, the president of Meharry Medical College, a historically black college and university, addressed these concerns within the community, reassured his constituents about safety, and encouraged participation in clinical trials. We know that patients are more likely to trust healthcare providers, who have credibility within their own communities. So we will continue to have success using this approach. Ultimately, Vice President, we are ready to distribute this vaccine as soon as it is approved. In the meantime and even after, we’ll continue messaging about safety and efficacy. We’re also incredibly grateful to all of our federal partners for your continued partnership and your unprecedented efforts to bring this to market soon. Thank you.
Mike Pence: (47:18)
Thank you, Dr. Piercey, and let me extend our great respect. I’ve been serving alongside the director of the CDC now throughout this pandemic, and to you, your team, to you, Governor, I see the preparation here. It’s one of the reasons we’re here in Tennessee, as Dr. Redfield, the CDC, and HHS believe, as he said, that Tennessee has one of the most comprehensive distribution plans among all of the states and territories that we’re preparing to serve. So we want to commend you for those efforts and that preparation.
Mike Pence: (47:56)
I should also mention, as we celebrate a great private sector partner here in FedEx, we want to take this opportunity to also express our gratitude to CVS, Walgreens that have also signed contracts and agreed to partner with us to implement your plan here, Governor. Our expectation is that literally within 48 hours of approval, CVS and Walgreens are poised to assist you in administering that vaccine at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across this state and across the country.
Mike Pence: (48:32)
Again, it’s part of that whole of America approach, but all of it begins with the preparation and the thoughtful planning that you’ve done here, Governor. So I want to commend you and Dr. Piercey and the team-
Lisa Piercey: (48:36)
Thank you, sir.
Mike Pence: (48:36)
… for your efforts. We look forward to continuing to partner with you.
Patrick Sheehan: (48:50)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. My name is Patrick Sheehan. I’m the the director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. Secretary Azar, Dr. Redfield, thanks very much for being here and highlighting this important effort, Operation Warp Speed, this collaboration to make sure that we get vaccines to Americans when they need it. I just want to thank our gracious partners, FedEx, too for our longstanding partnership and the work that you do in Tennessee and with the Emergency Management Agency in Tennessee and have done for decades. You’re tremendous partners.
Patrick Sheehan: (49:20)
When the global supply chain ground to a halt earlier this year, we leaned on our partnership with you to help us solve problems and fix gaps in our nation, leaned on through FEMA’s Airbridge, and it was just vitally important. I just want to thank you for that lifeline for PPE when we needed it.
Patrick Sheehan: (49:43)
Emergency management has served many critical functions throughout this pandemic in Tennessee and throughout our nation, and our system is going to be on display here in the coming weeks and months as we distribute and help distribute this vaccine for COVID-19 to all 95 of Tennessee’s counties, mostly rural counties in Tennessee.
Patrick Sheehan: (50:04)
A two-dose vaccine requiring ultra-cold stories injects some complexity into the processes that we have, so into our planning, into our operations. But we’re building on the infrastructure and lessons that we’ve learned over the last ten months of this fight and this response. A couple of the lessons involve leveraging the strength of our Tennessee National Guard and the successes that we’ve had in our PPE distribution.
Patrick Sheehan: (50:29)
To highlight our guard, since April, and guardsmen and guardswomen have conducted more than 600,000 COVID-19 tests for our fellow Tennesseeans at drive-through testing events and in local health departments. Here in Memphis, the Tennessee National Guard worked with Memphis and Shelby County leaders, community organizations, and churches. The Tennessee Department of Health prioritized testing availability for communities here for anyone who wanted it. Months of barrier-free testing have helped us work through a number of logistical challenges for high in demand resources. Our National Guard partners were tremendous, and Mr. Vice President, we are very thankful for the support of this administration in using the National Guard in our fight against COVID-19 and for the continuous support that you’ve granted through this emergency.
Patrick Sheehan: (51:20)
In addition to trained and dependable manpower, we’ve built a supply system in Tennessee that supports Tennessee’s response to this pandemic, including distributing monthly supplies to all 80,000 classrooms in Tennessee, giving every teacher in the state access to hand sanitizer, face coverings, PPE, and supplies for sanitizing classrooms, an effort that has been central to keeping schools open and teachers supported and safe.
Patrick Sheehan: (51:48)
We’re using all these lessons that we’ve learned to inform a robust plan for vaccine distribution to all corners of our state, and, as Dr. Piercey mentioned, Tennessee has been working to have an effective pandemic vaccine system for years, highlighted by the Flight Flu TN. On the emergency management side, we are preparing most for the issues around making sure that ultra-cold storage vaccines are able to be supported and ensuring as close as possible we have zero wasted doses of vaccine.
Patrick Sheehan: (52:21)
TEMA, the Tennessee Department of Health, the governor’s office, the Tennessee Hospital Association, our partners with general services, and other partners have worked through many scenarios to evaluate and pressure-test our plans and systems. We’ve conducted exercises and held sessions just to “what if” and “what about” different things that could happen to develop contingencies for anything that could possibly go wrong and to make sure that we have not just one backup, but multiple backups to make sure that we can get vaccines where they need to be and when they need to be there, from ensuring that we have [inaudible 00:52:56] dry iced to making sure that if a truck breaks down, we can move resources. We’re planning from the moment vaccines get into Tennessee until they’re distributed to hospitals through the time that they’re given to Tennesseeans.
Patrick Sheehan: (53:14)
One takeaway that we’ve discovered in working with our partners and through exercises is that for vaccines requiring ultra-cold storage, it’s probably going to be easier to move people to the vaccine where it is, rather than move the vaccine maybe that next mile. So we encourage our partners to take a look at what we’ve discovered here about when we have our plan, when we have it located where we know it’s going to be maintained well, that it’s easier to plan to bring people to the vaccine than have to bring the vaccine that next mile. Ultra-cold storage does present new challenges, but our teams are prepared. We’ve been preparing, and we’re ready for what’s going to come.
Patrick Sheehan: (53:54)
Of course, none of us are able to do this alone. This has taken partnerships and buy-in from our partners across the private sector, all 95 counties’ emergency management directors and leaders.
Dr. Wendy Long: (56:56)
… alternative care sites, elective surgeries, Remdesivir distribution, just to name a few. And I really believe that that collaboration has saved lives in Tennessee. Tennessee’s healthcare infrastructure includes everything from small, rural hospitals providing care to much of our population who live in those rural areas to corporate headquarters of large, national healthcare systems based here, including HCA, Life Point Health, and Community Health Systems.
Dr. Wendy Long: (57:32)
We’re also home to world class research centers, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, as well as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital here in Memphis. And of course, we’re home to FedEx, our gracious hosts today who have shipped millions of pieces of PPD to frontline healthcare workers.
Dr. Wendy Long: (57:54)
It’s the institutions, the people, and the innovations in Tennessee that really put us in a great position to support the national COVID response, not to mention our famous volunteer spirit. But there are challenges facing Tennessee now that are similar to what’s happening in many other areas of the State. New records are being set every day for the numbers of individuals in Tennessee hospitalized with COVID-19. Hospitals have been taking every action to increase their capacity to care for this surge in patients.
Dr. Wendy Long: (58:29)
But those efforts are hamstrung by the reality of large numbers of hospital staff who are unable to work on any given day due to COVID-19 exposure or COVID illness.
Dr. Wendy Long: (58:41)
So this vaccine offers an opportunity, not just to protect the health and lives of these critical healthcare workers, but also to assure that Tennessee hospitals will continue to be available 24/7 to provide much needed care of all types in their communities.
Dr. Wendy Long: (58:58)
Tennessee hospitals have been working with the State Department of Health for weeks now, preparing to receive and administer vaccine and we are eager to begin vaccinating our healthcare heroes as soon as possible.
Dr. Wendy Long: (59:12)
Hospitals also recognize the vital role they will play in communicating with the public regarding the importance of getting vaccinated and the safety of the vaccine. As I previously mentioned, Tennessee is home to Vanderbilt University who’s playing an instrumental role in the clinical evaluation of both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. So we have very close to home experience and expertise.
Dr. Wendy Long: (59:38)
Over the course of the pandemic, Tennessee hospitals have been a compelling voice in promoting mask wearing and social distancing, and we will shift and expand that messaging to the importance of vaccination as vaccine becomes more widely available.
Dr. Wendy Long: (59:54)
Since surveys have demonstrated that especially in our rural communities, hospital physicians and nurses are viewed as the most trusted resources when it comes to health information and health advice. We know that vaccination is the key to reducing the stress on our hospital system, to improving our economy, and to protecting the health of our families, friends and communities.
Dr. Wendy Long: (01:00:18)
And Tennessee hospitals are committed to working with Governor Lee and his team to achieve those goals. I want to thank you for the time today to continue our collaboration with the State and to assist with the federal government’s efforts to distribute the vaccine.
Mike Pence: (01:00:40)
Thank you, Dr. Long. Thank you for all the incredible health care workers that you represent. Governor Lee, she really makes a fine point I expect resonates with Dr. Redfield. The recommendations the CDC has made to prioritize vaccinating healthcare workers and staff and residents of nursing home and long term care.
Mike Pence: (01:00:57)
It’s certainly is about protecting the health of our healthcare workers but also about preserving the capacity in our hospitals and clinics across this State and this nation to meet this moment. It’s a great affirmation, a great confirmation of the Governor’s decision to prioritize healthcare workers as well as those in long term care facilities.
Mike Pence: (01:01:51)
We really look forward to continue to work with you here. Tennessee is a not only a hub for FedEx, as you point out, it’s a hub for healthcare in America. No better place to come and talk about the progress we’ve made and the opportunities we have so thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Mike Pence: (01:01:58)
I thought I might, before I offer a few closing thoughts, I thought I might give the Chairman and CEO of FedEx the opportunity to say a word, and then the Governor, and then out of respect for the clock here at FedEx, we’re going to restrict the airspace just as limited as possible, and then slide on but this has been enormously informative.
Mike Pence: (01:02:06)
Fred Smith, thank you again. I hope you’ve heard loud and clear today the gratitude of President Trump, our administration, and to no less extent the American people for the professionalism and the heart of the FedEx team throughout this pandemic, through Operation Airbridge in delivering PPE to doctors and nurses across this country, and in anticipation of the role that FedEx will play in delivering safe and effective vaccine to the American people.
Mike Pence: (01:02:29)
You have our thanks and I’m grateful to have a chance to come here and hear directly from your team about the plans to distribute this vaccine. It’s just one more installment of what FedEx has done to make a difference for America through the course of this challenging year. So I thank you. Fred?
Fred Smith : (01:02:55)
Well, Mr. Vice President, thank you very much. We’re honored to a part of this great mission to remove the scourge from our society. Let me again reiterate every single person, all of my business partners and all 600,000 of us have no higher priority than to get these vaccines on time and to the right location.
Fred Smith : (01:03:22)
Let me say also, Mr. Vice President, how much I admire the work that you have done as the head of this Task Force. For months upon months, we have seen it up close and personal the dedication from the people like the doctor and Secretary and all of the people under General Perna that have been working on this is truly remarkable.
Fred Smith : (01:03:47)
So the nation owes you and the Task Force a great debt of gratitude. Thank you for coming down here and seeing the preparations up close and personal.
Mike Pence: (01:03:53)
Fred Smith : (01:04:01)
Mike Pence: (01:04:01)
Governor Lee: (01:04:01)
Mike Pence: (01:04:01)
Governor Lee: (01:04:03)
Yes, sir. We are really honored you came. We’re really grateful to President Trump for delivering on his commitment to have a vaccine ready, and then you all, Dr. Redfield, Secretary Azar, Mr. Vice President, your entire team, you have done, you have executed on that commitment to have this vaccine delivered to the American people, or presented to us to deliver to the American people. Now it’s our turn to do that.
Governor Lee: (01:04:37)
We have tremendous partners. I’ve always said government isn’t the answer to the greatest challenges that we face, the people are. And the people are the private sector American innovation, they are Tennesseans who engage with us down to the simple tasks of wearing a mask and washing their hands but we together are the answer to the delivery of this vaccine.
Governor Lee: (01:05:07)
You’ve done your job, now it’s our turn. We hope that we can make you proud and Americans proud by our plan and our delivery. We are certainly up for the task.
Mike Pence: (01:05:22)
Thank you, Governor Lee, and thank you to your team. Again, very helpful insights. I know we’ll carry them back to the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Mike Pence: (01:05:25)
Fred Smith, thank you again, and to Raj and Don and Richard, the whole team, I hope you will tell those tens of thousands of FedEx employees how grateful we are for the work they have done and continue to do. It is who you are. And it comes through loud and clear to people all across this country.
Mike Pence: (01:05:53)
Well, we’ve gone through an enormously challenging time in the life of this nation, in the year 2020. I came here today because I wanted to see first hand here at FedEx and here in Tennessee, evidence that help is on the way.
Mike Pence: (01:06:10)
Early in this pandemic, President Trump initiated a process that said we are not just going to have a whole of government approach, we were going to have a whole of America approach, partnering with our healthcare providers around the country and manufacturers around the country who met the moment with increasing and reinventing testing.
Mike Pence: (01:06:29)
We worked with companies just like FedEx to help deliver PPE to doctors and nurses across the country to meet the moment. But early on in this pandemic, as Secretary Azar pointed out, we initiated a process to develop a safe and effective vaccine at a historic pace. And I’m here to say that because of the President’s leadership, because of the incredible ingenuity of America’s pharmaceutical companies and researchers, that help is on the way.
Mike Pence: (01:07:00)
We are just a matter of days away, we believe, for the approval of the first safe and effective vaccine for the Coronavirus for the American people. And working with great companies like FedEx, with great state leadership like you have here in Tennessee, we’re going to deliver that vaccine beginning with those in long term care facilities and our healthcare workers.
Mike Pence: (01:07:27)
We’re going to deliver those in just a matter of days after that approval. It’s like I said early on, when I think about the time through which we’ve passed, Fred, I can only say only in America-
Fred Smith : (01:07:35)
Mike Pence: (01:07:41)
… can you see the American people rise up, the ingenuity of our researchers, the compassion of our healthcare workers, the dedication of state leadership and staff, dedication of our great team at the federal level to be able to meet this moment.
Mike Pence: (01:07:58)
And I want people looking on today to know that while we see rising cases and rising hospitalizations in many places around the country, and we recognize that challenges remain and we have a ways to go, that help is on the way.
Mike Pence: (01:08:15)
In this season of hope, season when faith traditions celebrate great meaning. My Christian faith we’ll welcome the birth of our savior. We’ll mark a Hanukah celebration at the White House in coming days. But this is also a season of hope because help is on the way.
Mike Pence: (01:08:35)
With a new vaccine, we’ll begin the process of ridding our country of this Coronavirus pandemic. And bringing America back to that normalcy, returning to normal in America. We can see it from here, but let’s all continue to do our part, as the Governor said, all the way down to the individual.
Mike Pence: (01:09:02)
We just encourage you to wash your hands, practice social distancing, wear a mask whenever it’s indicated or whenever you can, practice social distancing. And as I’ve said many times through many days of this pandemic, more convinced than ever, we’ll get through this. And we’ll get through this together.
Mike Pence: (01:09:46)
So Fred Smith, the FedEx team, Governor Lee and the great team here in Tennessee, thank you very much and God Bless You.
Governor Lee: (01:09:46)
Thank you, sir.
Mike Pence: (01:09:46)
Thank you all.