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Dec 12, 2020
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TOPLINE Just hours after being authorized by the FDA, doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech are being packaged at Pfizer’s factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and readied for distribution by UPS and FedEx, the head of Operation Warp Speed said Saturday, with vaccines expected to arrive in all 50 states by Monday.

Vaccines will arrive at 145 sites around the U.S. by Monday, including at least one in every state, Operation Warp Speed leader and Army Gen. Gustave Perna said.

Another 425 sites will get the vaccine by Tuesday, with 66 additional sites having the vaccine on Wednesday to complete the “initial delivery” of Pfizer orders, according to Perna.

It’s up to individual states to decide how to prioritize who will be vaccinated, with the first doses largely expected to go to front-line health care workers and nursing home residents.

What could complicate state distribution plans is that two doses of the vaccine administered three weeks apart are needed to achieve the 95% effectiveness rate that the vaccine displayed in clinical trials, and it’s not yet clear when a second wave of shipments might arrive. That will leave states to decide whether to withhold some doses they’re receiving now to be sure that they have enough to provide second doses in three weeks, or exhaust the supplies they’re receiving now by giving more people single doses, betting on a smooth supply chain providing second doses soon.

The FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization on Friday night to the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which had already been authorized for use in Canada and the United Kingdom. The approval comes after weeks of rising Covid infections and deaths in the United States. Since late October, the U.S. has regularly set new highs for daily diagnoses of the disease, and for total hospitalizations almost every day since November 10. Deaths, which lag behind increases in other metrics, started reaching record levels this month, and are now surpassing even the worst days of last spring.

The first shipment of vaccines will be sent via super cold “suitcases” to the distribution sites. The Pfizer vaccine requires storage temperatures of -94 degrees Fahrenheit, prompting fears that wider distribution could end up leading to a dry ice shortage.

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