Officials in the US say the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine will begin arriving across the country on Monday morning.
Shipping companies UPS and FedEx will deliver Pfizer’s vaccine to nearly 150 state locations, while another 450 sites will get the vaccine on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Army General Gustave Perna, part of the Trump administration’s vaccine development programme Operation Warp Speed, said health workers will receive the jab first before then administering it to others.
The locations include hospitals and other sites able to meet the ultra-cold storage requirements for the vaccine. Within three weeks, vaccines should be delivered to local pharmacies and other locations, Mr Perna added.
The announcement kicks off a massive logistical operation involving the federal and state governments, private companies and health workers to quickly distribute limited vaccine supplies throughout the US.
Initially, about three million doses are expected to be shipped nationwide. A similar amount is to be held in reserve for those recipients’ second dose.
Initial shipments are expected to leave Pfizer’s manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, by lorry and then be flown to regional hubs around the country.
Adding to the distribution challenge is the fact the vaccine must be stored and shipped at ultra-low temperatures. Pfizer has developed shipping containers that use dry ice, and GPS-enabled sensors will allow the company to track each shipment and ensure it stays cold.
The green light to begin vaccinations came late on Friday when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised emergency use of the vaccine.
The FDA found the vaccine to be highly protective with no major safety issues.
While determined to be safe, regulators in the UK are investigating several severe allergic reactions.
The FDA’s instructions tell providers not give it to those with a known history of severe allergic reactions to any of its ingredients.
FDA vaccine director Peter Marks said the agency will carefully track any reports of allergic reactions in the US.
“I think we still need to learn more, and that’s why we’ll be taking precautions,” he added.
The FDA will next week review a second vaccine from Moderna and the National Institutes of Health that appears about as protective as Pfizer’s jab.
On Friday, the Trump administration announced it had purchased 100 million more doses of that vaccine on top of 100 million it previously ordered.
The announcement came after revelations last week that the White House opted not to lock in an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for delivery in the second quarter of 2021.
The Trump administration contends the current orders plus those in the pipeline will be enough to accommodate any American who wants to be vaccinated.