McKesson, UTSW Tackle Logistical, Scientific Issues to Support COVID-19 Vaccines

Dave Moore, Staff Writer

In a few months’ time, DFW-based McKesson had to build 3.3 million square feet of space — some of which had to be capable of refrigerating vaccines at -80 degrees Fahrenheit — and then distribute two types of COVID-19 vaccines across the U.S., within 24 hours of arriving at their facility.

UT Southwestern Medical Center, meanwhile, pivoted its vast research capacity — which can conduct as many as 500 projects at a time — to target COVID-19, launching 300 studies. UTSW even studied vaccine effectiveness among its medical workers, determining it was 98 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, and published its findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Those are a few of takeaways from the Friday, April 9, Dallas Regional Chamber’s Board of Advisors meeting, which was presented by Axxess, a DFW-based, leading home health care technology company.

Boston Consulting Group’s Erin George interviewed McKesson CEO Brian Tyler and UT Southwestern’s Dr. Dan Podolsky during a one-hour virtual meeting of the DRC’s Board of Advisors.

Leading off was George’s discussion with featured speaker Tyler, who described his firm’s HQ move to Las Colinas.

“We made the decision to move our headquarters here, after a very thoughtful evaluation and with very specific reasons,” he said. “Dallas has been one of the more economic growth-focused areas. There are a lot of high-quality companies here. I know you like to do things bigger in Texas, and that certainly resonates with us as an organization, in terms of aspiring to push for change and innovate, and make big changes happen in health care.”

Tyler said one important consideration was job opportunities for the spouses and partners of McKesson employees, which DFW has. Not to mention the presence of existing talent to fill jobs left open when some McKesson staff didn’t relocate from its San Francisco location.

The CEO then described McKesson’s part in fighting COVID-19.

“Our role as the centralized distributor of the vaccine is to receive the product from the manufacturer, get it into inventory, store it, and get distributed and moved off the site within 24 hours,” he said.

Tyler said the work is performed in four facilities that were built specifically for that purpose, and for preserving the health and safety of McKesson workers.

“(I’m) just incredibly proud of what the team has accomplished here in a few short months,” he said.

UTSW President Podolsky, in his interview, described the research his institution did with 8,000 fully vaccinated staff members, and 6,000 unvaccinated staffers.

“There was a dramatic difference in instances of COVID-19 among those two groups,” he said. “When I say ‘dramatic,’ a 98 percent reduction in the group who received the vaccine.”

He said those findings allowed UTSW to continue to employ more than 400 health care professionals, who might have otherwise been placed in self-isolation.

“It couldn’t have happened at a better moment, because (what) we saw in January was unlike any we’d seen before.”

View video from the event on our YouTube channel.