CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s United Airlines plays a big role in getting the COVID-19 vaccine here, and now it will have to handle the influx of doses that the area has been promised.
The belly of a United cargo plane can store up to 1,000,000 vaccines.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Mainly Clear And Not As Cold Sunday Night
But are they ready to take on the doses that Illinois desperately needs?
It’s a well-oiled machine at United’s Cargo center. It has to be. Damaging just one of the cold storage units could compromise thousands of potentially lifesaving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Security is so tight CBS 2 couldn’t even show the vials themselves, and for good reason.
“It’s totally different in terms of the importance it has to not just here in Chicago but globally,” said Chris Busch, managing director of United Cargo.
Busch is basically the quarterback of the cargo team that transports vaccines.
“See all the locks here all around the pallets as well as the containers outside it locks in and keeps it secure during the flight,” he said.
Every move is choreographed. And special security systems were put in place.
“Making sure that we didn’t do anything to harm the vaccine, during offload or bringing it thorough our facility. That’s why we came up with special indicators in our systems so that everybody’s aware that theres a vaccine on the airplane,” said Busch.READ MORE: At Least 20 Shot, 2 Killed In Weekend Violence In Chicago
Temperatures are tracked from the belly of the plane.
“We are giving status updates for everything,” Busch said. “And the we drag it right directly into the freight facility and then take it from there.”
They’re also tracked to the cold storage waiting areas at O’Hare.
“There will be an alarm here if it’s gone outside of the temperature range that it’s supposed to be,” Busch said.
Less than two months into the vaccination effort supply in Illinois has been an issue.
CBS 2 asked Gov. JB Pritzker about the problem Thursday, and he said the Biden administration has promised a 16% increase in the number of vaccines that arrive on a weekly basis.
“So we were the first airline ready to carry the vaccine,” Busch said. “We, we are ready. Every single aircraft in our fleet is capable of carrying vaccine.”
So far United has flown close to 10,000,000 vaccines into the United States, and a huge portion of those have come through O’Hare. They will continue for many months to come.MORE NEWS: Boy, 11, Shot And Wounded In West Pullman; He Is Second Child Shot In Area Within Week
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