The first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine are currently being packaged at the company’s Michigan facility and will begin rolling out for delivery Sunday morning, Operation Warp Speed chief operating officer Army Gen. Gus Perna announced Saturday morning.
Shipments are expected to reach 145 predesignated sites across all 50 states on Monday. Another 425 sites will receive shipments Tuesday, and 66 more sites will receive shipments Wednesday, for a total of about 2.9 million doses.
The plan to distribute the Pfizer vaccine with military precision was unveiled hours after the Food and Drug Administration officially approved the drug late Friday night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted Saturday to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for use on people 16 and older. The next step will be for CDC Director Robert Redfield to give a final signoff, which is expected later in the day.
“At the end of the day, we have an excellent plan that has been well-coordinated, well-synchronized, well-rehearsed and well-collaborated with everybody from the total government through [the] commercial industry down to the governors and the states. I am very confident in it,” Perna said, adding that he expected to make some adjustments to the plan as issues arise.
Health care workers and residents of long-term health care facilities, such as nursing homes, are expected to be among the first people to get the jab.
Perna said the distribution effort was the result of “a great collaboration between UPS and FedEx,” and that each dose will be transported directly to super-cold freezers.
“We want to ensure perfection in the vaccine. We don’t want anything going into an arm that would be a problem,” Perna emphasized.
Clinical trials of Pfizer’s drug, created in partnership with the German company BioNTech, were overwhelmingly positive. The vaccine, which is given in two shots a couple weeks apart, was shown to offer 95% efficacy with side effects including sore arms, fatigue, headaches and fever.
“We think as early as about three weeks from now we can be delivering vaccines to all providers as directed by the states ― for example, to the local pharmacies as they would like,” he said.
Companies such as Walmart have already announced that their in-store pharmacies will help distribute the vaccines.
“We are being very diligent, and only after a vaccine is approved will I allocate vaccines accordingly,” Perna said.
Another coronavirus vaccine, manufactured by drugmaker Moderna, will undergo FDA approval next week.
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