Historic US vaccine campaign begins with first shipments 'delivering hope' to millions | Inquirer News

Historic US vaccine campaign begins with first shipments ‘delivering hope’ to millions

/ 05:15 AM December 14, 2020

The temperature gauge on the door of a special freezer to hold the Pfizer vaccine is shown at LAC USC Medical Center during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

LOS ANGELES –The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine left on trucks and planes early on Sunday, kicking off a historic effort 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 Inc factory in Michigan began packing the first shipments of the vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech SE in dry ice shortly after 6:30 a.m. ET (1130 GMT) on Sunday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trucks carrying pallets of the boxed, refrigerated vaccine began rolling away from the Kalamazoo facility, escorted by body armor-clad security officers. The shots then were loaded onto FedEx and United Parcel Service planes that will whisk the precious cargo across the country.

“Today, we’re not hauling freight, we’re delivering hope,” said Andrew Boyle, co-president of Boyle Transportation, which was hired by UPS to help ferry vaccine from the factory to a waiting plane in Lansing, Michigan.

FEATURED STORIES

Boyle employee Bonnie Brewer, 56, said decades of experience hauling chemotherapies and other life-saving drugs prepared her for Sunday’s historic run.

“It feels amazing,” Brewer told Reuters after the cargo was safely handed off.

U.S. hospitals are preparing for the first shots to go into arms on Monday, but it will take months before most Americans can get a COVID-19 vaccine. Healthcare workers and elderly residents of long-term care homes are first in line to receive the inoculations of a two-dose regimen given about three weeks apart.

More than 100 million people, or about 30% of the U.S. population, could be immunized by the end of March, U.S. Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.

That would still leave the country far short of herd immunity that would halt virus transmission, so masks and social distancing will be needed for months to control the rampaging outbreak.

Health officials will also have to overcome widespread hesitancy about the new vaccines, with many Americans concerned the record speed at which they were developed may have compromised safety. Only 61% of U.S. respondents said they are open to getting inoculated, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

“It is however critical that most of the American people decide and accept to take the vaccine,” Slaoui said. “We are very concerned by the hesitancy that we see.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Special delivery

The massive logistical effort is further complicated by the need to transport and store the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at minus 70 Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit), requiring enormous quantities of dry ice or specialized ultra-cold freezers.

Workers clapped and whistled as the first boxes headed to the trucks. The long-awaited moment comes as the U.S. death toll was approaching 300,000 and infections and hospitalizations set daily records. Some models project that deaths could reach 500,000 before vaccines become widely available in the spring and summer.

Slaoui said the United States hopes to have about 40 million vaccine doses – enough for 20 million people – distributed by the end of December. That would include vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna Inc. An outside FDA advisory panel is scheduled to consider the Moderna vaccine on Thursday, with emergency use expected to be granted shortly after.

Although the federal government is coordinating distribution efforts, states have the final say over who gets the first shots. The federal government is sending the first shipments to more than 600 locations, as millions wait for the vaccine and a return to a life free from the fear of the deadly illness.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in a large clinical trial was 95% effective in preventing illness. It is not yet known if it prevents infection or transmission of COVID-19 by those who are vaccinated.

Familiar UPS and FedEx package delivery drivers are giving the vaccine top priority over holiday gifts and other parcels, as health officials plead with the public to avoid holiday gatherings following a post-Thanksgiving spike in hospitalizations and deaths.

Both companies have expertise in 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.

/MUF

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: BioNTech SE, COVID-19, Moderna, Pfizer, u.s., vaccine
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.



© Copyright 1997-2022 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.