COVID-19 vaccine shipments start in historic US effort

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COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort

Cartons of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are being prepared for shipment at Pfizer Global Supply's Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)

The first of many freezer-packaged COVID-19 vaccine bottles made it to distribution points in the United States on Sunday as the country's pandemic deaths neared the terrifying new milestone of 300,000.

The introduction of the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, ushered in the greatest vaccination effort in US history – one that health officials hope the American public will adopt, albeit some initial ones Expressed skepticism or concern. The first of two recordings is expected to be released to healthcare workers and nursing home residents in the coming week.

Fast transport is key to the vaccine, especially since it has to be stored at extremely low temperatures – around 94 degrees below zero. Early Sunday, Pfizer employees – clad in fluorescent yellow clothing, hard hats and gloves – wasted no time packing bottles into boxes. They scanned the packages and then placed them in freezer containers with dry ice. The vaccines were then shipped from Pfizer's Portage, Michigan facility to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, where the first cargo plane took off in what airport officials called "cheering".

"This is a historic day," said Richard W. Smith, who oversees operations in America for FedEx Express, which delivers 630 vaccine packages to distribution locations across the country. The United Parcel Service also transports part of the vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
Cartons of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are being prepared for shipment at Pfizer Global Supply's Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)

Tracked with GPS-enabled sensors, the first shipments should contain around 3 million cans, with many more to come. Federal officials say the first shipments of Pfizer's vaccine will be staggered, arriving at 145 distribution centers on Monday. Another 425 locations will receive deliveries on Tuesday and the remaining 66 on Wednesday. The vaccine doses jointly developed by the German partner BioNTech are distributed on the basis of the adult population of each state. Then the states decide where to go first.

In California, where healthcare workers are among the first to be vaccinated, state health officials are prioritizing hospitals that have adequate storage capacity, care for high-risk populations, and are able to vaccinate people quickly.

Initial surveys have shown that even some health care workers do not want to come first. Dr. Graham Snyder, head of the vaccine task force at health giant UPMC in Pennsylvania, estimates that about half of its employees are ready to receive the vaccine as soon as it is offered.

COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
The temperature in a freezer is -69 degrees Celsius when workers move boxes of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that will be shipped from the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020 should. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, pool)

However, many health officials expect a growing excitement.

"There is a thought that if they can be vaccinated and immune, they may not have to be as afraid to come to work," said Dr. Sandra Kemmerly, Medical Director for Hospital Quality at Oschner Health System, which has 40 hospitals in Louisiana and Mississippi. Staff approved for the first round will receive texts and emails instructing them to schedule their first injection, she said. Enough vaccine is stored so that anyone who receives the first dose of vaccine can have a second vaccine a few weeks later.

A survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs found that roughly half of Americans want to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Another quarter is unsure, while the remaining quarter states they are not interested. Some just generally reject vaccines. Others are concerned that the vaccines have been rushed and want to see how the rollout goes.

COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
A truck loaded with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine leaves Pfizer Global Supply's Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)

Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner who approved the Pfizer vaccine on Friday, has repeatedly insisted that the agency's decision was based on science, not policy, despite the White House threatening to fire him if the vaccine fails Saturday was admitted.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, a US attempt to develop vaccines quickly, told Fox News on Sunday that he was "very concerned" about the skepticism in some circles about the vaccine.

"Unfortunately … there has been a confusion between the thoroughness, science and objectivity of the work done and the perception that people think we are sacrificing …" said Slaoui. "I can guarantee you that such things have not happened, that we will follow science."

He described the development of vaccines by several pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna and AstraZeneca, as "a remarkable achievement of science, academia, industrial ecosystem and US government working together".

  • COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
    A truck loaded with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine leaves Pfizer Global Supply's Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)
  • COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
    Pfizer employees clap after line workers finish boxes of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped from Pfizer Global Supply's Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, swimming pool)
  • COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
    Cardboard boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be brought to the loading dock for shipment to the Pfam Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)
  • COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
    Cardboard boxes containing the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are loaded onto a truck for shipment to the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)
  • COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
    Boxes of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are being prepared for shipment at Pfizer Global Supply's Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)
  • COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
    Boxes of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are being prepared for shipment at Pfizer Global Supply's Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)
  • COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort
    A worker places boxes of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on a truck to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (AP Photo / Morry Gash, Pool)

While the vaccine has been found to be safe, UK regulators are investigating several serious allergic reactions. FDA instructions direct vendors not to give it to anyone with a known history of severe allergic reactions to any of its ingredients.

The Moderna vaccine will be reviewed by a panel of experts next week and could be in public use soon after.

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