5 Things You Need to Know About Fertility Shipping Logistics During the COVID-19 Outbreak

shipping, freezing and storing ivf and fertility specimens (eggs, embryos, sperm) during the COVID-19 outbreak

IVFCRYO has spent the last few days speaking to multiple courier companies and reviewing COVID-19 restrictions to ensure you’re up to date (3/20/2020 @ 12pm PDT). Here’s a shortlist of things you need to know to keep operations moving.

At IVFCRYO, we’ve spent the last few days speaking to multiple courier companies and reviewing COVID-19 restrictions to ensure the fertility industry is up to date (as of 3/20/2020 @ 12pm PDT) on the shipping logistics of your precious specimens. Here’s a shortlist of things you need to know to keep operations moving.

#1: Shipping Your Reproductive Tissue is a Safe Practice With Very Low Risk of COVID-19 Transmission

The World Health Organization continues to state that it is safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported. The website for the W.H.O. specifically states, “Yes (it is safe). The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”

#2: Logistics Companies are Still Operating at Near 100% capacity and some over 100% capacity

Shipping Logistics is one of the industries that has increased during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Companies like FedEx and UPS are operating throughout the world with business as usual. Although there are some restrictions with deliveries into specific areas that are on lockdown, most courier companies are able to operate for necessities with only slight modifications in standard procedures.

Note: FedEx and UPS own their own fleet of planes that are specifically set up for the sole purpose of shipping freight, and thus they are uniquely designed to be fully functional is a COVID-19 type of outbreak.

Specifically, to the fertility industry that largely utilizes medical couriers, those couriers are continuing to operate at near 100% levels as well. While medical couriers largely use commercial passenger planes to move shipments, there are plenty of passenger flights still available to support this industry functions. To further mitigate the risk of commercial flight limitations, medical courier companies are utilizing charter planes to most major airports in the country.

#3: Packages Containing Reproductive Tissue are Allowed Delivery into the most Restricted Areas on Lockdown

Medical specimens (and their associated couriers) are allowed access into the most restricted areas of the world. There should be no worry as to the question “Will my package be allowed into that city.”

Reproductive tissue falls under the category of medical specimens and thus cryopreservation and shipping units throughout the world should see no real issue.

#4: Most Fertility Clinics are Still Open and Operating

While ESHRE and ASRM recommendations have advised limited fertility practices during COVID-19, most fertility clinics are still open and operating. The work in most cases has shifted to fertility preservation and cryogenic storage, as well as launching remote services and consultations, which are allowing patients to be treated during this time.

From a shipping logistics perspective, this allows to specimen packages to be shipped/received and promptly placed into long term storage without any modification from current procedures.

#5: General Comments and Recommendations

When shipping, make sure to communicate with the receiving facility to ensure that they are open and available to receive reproductive tissue. Ensure you have the latest operating hours for them and that you have contact information of the receiving staff to provide updates on any delays.

Consider different protocols for shipping domestically vs. internationally as the risk and protocols are very different.

  • Domestically, continue to use fertility specific medical couriers to mitigate risk loss and damage.
  • Internationally, please use a fertility specific medical courier and use a broker to help clear the package through customs. Ask your medical courier to have the package Pre-Cleared through customs to prevent long delays.

Ensure that staff receiving shipments are taking the proper universal precautions when opening the package and handling cryogenically frozen tissue. Believe it or not, I’ve personally witnessed many staff that fail to use proper PPE when handling liquid nitrogen and medical specimens when opening and transferring specimens into long term storage. During the COVID-19 era, be sure to review and audit your staff as they ship and receive reproductive tissue.

With 40+ years of experience and over a million reproductive specimens shipped, who else would you trust with your client's last embryo, oocyte, or semen specimen transfer?

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