A historic project to stop the raging pandemic kicked off on Sunday in the US with the first trucks carrying a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the state pulling out of Michigan manufacturing facility.
Mask-wearing workers at a Pfizer factory in Michigan began packing the first shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine in dry ice shortly after 6:30 am ET on Sunday. Three trucks carrying pallets of boxed, refrigerated vaccines rolled away from the central Michigan facility at 8:29 am, escorted by body armour-clad security officers in a pickup truck and an SUV.
The shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history at a critical juncture of the pandemic that has killed 1.6 million and infected 71 million worldwide.
In a novel process that will need to become a daily routine, workers removed pizza-boxed-sized cartons; containing vaccine vials from a freezer. They placed them in large, blue coolers before these were boxed and labelled. Workers clapped and whistled as the first boxes headed to the trucks. The long-awaited moment comes as the death toll; was approaching 300,000 and infections and hospitalizations set daily records in the US.
Federal officials say the first shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will be staggered, arriving in 145 distribution centres on Monday, with an additional 425 sites; getting shipments on Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday. The vaccine, co-developed by German partner BioNTech is being doled out based on each state’s adult population.
Although the federal government is coordinating distribution efforts, states have the final decision over who gets the first shots. The federal government is sending the first shipments to more than 600 locations.
Companies in a range of industries are lobbying state and federal officials; to give priority to their works in the line of millions waiting for the vaccine; and a return to a life free from the fear of the deadly illness. US regulators late on Friday authorized the vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech for use.
Was Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, said on Saturday “We have spent months strategizing with Operation Warp Speed officials; and our healthcare customers on efficient vaccine logistics, and the time has arrived to put the plan into action.”
Pfizer’s dry-ice cooled packages can hold as many as 4,875 doses, and the first leg; of their journey will be from Kalamazoo to planes positioned nearby. The aircraft will shuttle vaccine packages to United Parcel Service or FedEx air cargo hubs in Louisville, Kentucky, and Memphis, Tennessee, respectively.
From there, they will be trucked or flown to facilities close; to the 145 United Nation sites earmarked to receive the first doses.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania health care giant UPMC has chosen staff who are critical to operating its facilities as among those getting the first round of vaccinations, said Dr. Graham Snyder, who led the centre’s vaccine task force.
Snyder said on Saturday “It’s very exciting. I will be thrilled, that moment when we administer our first dose. That will clearly be a watershed moment for us.”
The 40-hospital Oschner Health System in Louisiana and Mississippi expects; to receive more than 9,000 doses in the coming days, said Dr. Sandra Kemmerly, medical director of hospital quality.