Now that the Food and Drug Administration has authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, federal officials are throwing their weight behind a vast effort to distribute the vaccine as soon as possible. Army Gen. Gustave Perna, leader of Operation Warp Speed, said Saturday that distribution of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine has begun.
During a news conference, Perna explained that shipping containers with the vaccine are already being packed at a Pfizer facility.
“Within the next 24 hours, they will begin moving vaccine from the Pfizer manufacturing facility to the UPS and FedEx hubs, and then it will go out to the 636 locations nationwide which were identified by the states and territories,” Perna told reporters.
“We expect 145 sites across all the states to receive vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday, and the final 66 sites on Wednesday, which will complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer orders.”
The announcement comes roughly 12 hours after the FDA formally granted an emergency use authorization to the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
With the green light, the U.S. became one of just a handful of countries — including the U.K. and Canada — to allow widespread distribution of the two-dose vaccine, which clinical trials have shown to be 95% effective at preventing the coronavirus.
Perna said that his group did not pre-position the vaccine for distribution, not wanting to presume that the FDA would issue its authorization before it did so.
Even as the vaccine reaches its intended locations, federal officials will also be grappling with another challenge: bolstering public confidence in getting it. Toward that end, FDA chief Stephen Hahn pledged to be among the first to have it administered.
“I know the meticulousness of the review that the FDA has done,” Hahn said at a separate briefing Saturday. “I will absolutely take this COVID-19 vaccine, pending availability and distribution, because I have complete trust and confidence in the FDA’s career staff’s evaluation.”