Ancillary supplies for administering COVID-19 vaccines are heading to more than 600 locations nationwide after the head of operations for Operation Warp Speed ordered their release Wednesday from distribution centers.
“I gave permission to already distribute syringes and needles, alcohol wipes, and diluent — which is required in support of the Pfizer vaccine,” U.S. Army Gen. Gus Perna said during a press briefing. “We’ll begin that today. Distribution will be completed by Friday.”
Health care distributor McKesson Corp. (NYSE: MCK) the U.S. government’s central third-party logistics provider, is building the kits, which are then shipped by UPS (NYSE: UPS) to marry up with vaccine shipments at destination sites identified by states. FedEx Express (NYSE: FDX) and UPS will both deliver the ultracold Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) vaccine, but UPS is in charge of delivering the auxiliary kits.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being reviewed by a Food and Drug Administration validation panel Thursday, and the agency is expected to quickly issue an emergency use authorization after clinical trials showed the drug to be 95% effective, with minimal side effects. Deliveries could commence within days, with Operation Warp Speed officials previously targeting next Tuesday as the tentative launch date.
Vaccines and supplies are being dispatched to 636 locations across 64 state and regional jurisdictions, officials said.
Perna said detailed plans for distribution of the Pfizer vaccine were completed Friday, based on the allocations for each jurisdiction.
On Tuesday, OWS locked in the final allocations to states for the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc., which the FDA is scheduled to review next week. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses, although the Moderna product is somewhat easier to transport because it only needs to be frozen at minus 20 degrees Celsius, not at ultra-cold temperatures.
States will submit their desired delivery locations and quantities Thursday and Friday so planning is completed before FDA approval, Perna said.
Vaccinating the military
Meanwhile, Defense Department officials said they expect to receive their first allotment of vaccines, about 44,000 doses, as early as next week, pending FDA authorization.
The Pentagon will administer the first batch to health care providers and then to personnel in long-term care facilities and those in high-risk populations and in critical national security positions, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That first batch of vaccines will be distributed to 16 locations, including three overseas in what Thomas McCaffery, the assistant secretary for health affairs, termed a “control pilot.”
The 16 sites were selected based on a sizable DOD population of high-priority personnel, cold storage capability, and sufficient medical personnel to administer the vaccines and monitor recipients after they receive the vaccines, he said.
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency is receiving COVID-19 vaccine orders from all service branches and submitting them to the CDC. The agency will track vaccine shipments from the vendor to each military site, as part of OWS.