KEY POINTS

  • Shipping bottlenecks are possible due to expected vaccine deliveries
  • White House official sees mid-December as a possible target date for vaccines
  • Pandemic is prompting more people to shop online this holiday season

Package and mail deliveries could experience bottlenecks this year if those deliveries compete with COVID-19 vaccines, creating a potential "shipageddon" scenario for online shoppers and shippers.

A handful of vaccines developed by the likes of Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca and Moderna are close to release under emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Gen. Gustave Perna, who leads the White House effort to distribute a vaccine under Operation Warp Speed, told ABC News late Tuesday that vaccines could start to roll out by mid-December.

Those potential millions of doses could have competition as more and more shoppers avoid brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic and instead get their holiday goods shipped from online retailers.

The day after Thanksgiving, dubbed Black Friday, is the busiest holiday shopping day of the year. Preparing for the flood of orders, many retailers introduced their Black Friday deals in October in hopes of diluting the stream of package deliveries.

Dubbed “shipageddon,” peak holiday shipping and vaccine deliveries could be overwhelming. Alan Amling, a former UPS executive now at the University of Tennessee’s Global Supply Chain Institute, told Reuters on Tuesday that vaccine deliveries will “strain the system.”

"It could not start at any worse time," added Satish Jindel, president of delivery tracking firm ShipMatrix.

Bonny Harrison, a spokesperson for FedEx, told Reuters that vaccine deliveries could bump some packages off its air delivery services, but not ground shipments.

"FedEx is prioritizing vaccines," she added.

Shoppers already experienced similar backlogging issues in mid-November during the release of Sony’s much-anticipated PlayStation 5. The gaming console was not stocked on shelves because of the pandemic and many customers went online to find retailers like Target out of stock.

E-commerce colossus Amazon announced it is creating more than 100,000 jobs in operations such as packing and delivery, and shipping giant UPS expects to sign up at least 50,000 workers ahead of the 2020 holiday season E-commerce colossus Amazon announced it is creating more than 100,000 jobs in operations such as packing and delivery, and shipping giant UPS expects to sign up at least 50,000 workers ahead of the 2020 holiday season Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / CHRIS HONDROS