Detroit, Dec 13, 2020 – Three semi trucks carrying the first shipments of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine left a factory in Michigan early Sunday, kicking off a historic project to stop a surging pandemic that is claiming more than 2,400 lives a day in the United States.
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 a.m. ET on Sunday. Three trucks carrying pallets of boxed, refrigerated vaccines rolled away from the central Michigan facility at 8:29 a.m., escorted by body armor-clad security officers in a pickup truck and a SUV.
In a novel process that will need to become 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 labeled, as shown on a network television video feed.
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 United States. It will take months before most U.S. residents can get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The federal government plans to release the nation’s first 2.9 million doses to 64 states, U.S. territories and major cities, as well as five federal agencies. 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 workers in the line of millions waiting for the vaccine and a return to life free from the fear of the deadly illness.
U.S. regulators late on Friday authorized the vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech for use.
“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,” Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, said on Saturday.
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 U.S. sites earmarked to receive the first doses.
DELIVERY FIRMS GIVE VACCINE TOP PRIORITY
Familiar UPS and FedEx package delivery drivers are giving the vaccine top priority over holiday gifts and other parcels. They will deliver many of the “suitcases” into the hands of healthcare providers on Monday. The shipments are the first of three expected this week.
Healthcare workers and elderly residents of long-term care homes are first in line to receive the inoculations.
Pfizer’s inoculations have the most restrictive requirements for shipping and storage temperature, minus 70 Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit).
Both companies have expertise handling fragile medical products and are leaving little room for error. They are providing temperature and location tracking to backup devices embedded in the Pfizer boxes, and tracking each shipment throughout its journey. – Reuters