CHICAGO (CBS) — Late Friday President Donald Trump said the Pfizer vaccine to fight COVID-19 would ship in a matter of weeks, going to vulnerable populations first. It is still pending Food and Drug Administration approval.
Distribution of the vaccine, however, will be a challenge. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has been digging into the plans in the Chicago area.
“These results are extremely encouraging,” said Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer with the Indiana State Department of Health.
Munster’s Community Hospital will be one of the first five sites in Indiana to receive Pfizer’s vaccine. Friday a hospital spokesperson could not comment on the project timeline, but Indiana’s health department said it is “actively preparing” to receive doses from Pfizer.
“Earlier this week they reported that they may submit for an emergency use authorization as early as the third week of November,” Weaver said.
All of the Indiana pilot sites can properly store doses, which takes some finesse.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet. “It’s possible, but it’s going to be difficult.”
The vaccine has to be kept at extremely cold temperatures.
“But you only have 48 hours where you can have the vaccine not in minus 70 temperatures,” Horton said. “So it’s going to require a very, very efficient network for distribution.”
Friday Gov. JB Pritzker’s office said “pilot sites” will be picked differently in the state of Illinois. Interested distributors will have to go through the Pandemic Provider Enrollment process.
“When the vaccine is ready it will go directly to the people who have been enrolled,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike with the Illinois Department of Public Health.
There is still the question of how it will get to these sites. Friday United Airlines and American Airlines and Delta said they are already planning to step in. United put together a “COVID Readiness Task Team” and has leased temperature-controlled shipping containers. Meanwhile, American said they have established a network of team members that specialize in “temperature-critical shipments,” including vaccinations. United said that so far they have helped transport nearly 145 million pounds of medical supplies to aid in the fight against COVID-19, using a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights.
Ezike did not have a timeline for when it will be known which hospitals or community providers in Illinois will receive vaccine shipments but said once they know that vaccine is ready they will reach out to the providers who enrolled and work out the distribution from there.
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