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Officials Provide Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

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Officials with the Defense Department, Operation Warp Speed and the Department of Health and Human Services today provided an update on COVID-19 vaccine packaging and distribution and forecast a possible time period when all Americans will have access to the vaccine.


Army Gen. Gus F. Perna, chief operating officer of OWS, briefed the media on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Washington. He was joined by HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II and Dr. Moncef Slaoui, OWS chief advisor.

Since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine attained emergency use authorization on Friday, thousands of people at Pfizer, United Parcel Service and FedEx Corp. have been working on packing and distribution of the vaccine.

The strategy is to get the initial Pfizer vaccine out to Americans right away, he said. Deliveries started today with more to follow.

A man in a military uniform and two men wearing civilian clothes watch as another man opens a box. All of the men wear face masks.
Operation Warp Speed
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, left, chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed, and Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna, chief operating officer of OWS, visit a UPS freezer farm in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 3, 2020.
Photo By: Ryan Davis, UPS
VIRIN: 201103-A-AB123-011

As it becomes available, the vaccine is allocated in a fair and equitable manner to the states and territories, which stipulate the location and quantity needed, he explained.

Perna said he expects the Moderna vaccine to be made available for shipment sometime this week.

A certain amount of vaccines are set aside in cold storage and not shipped, the general said, explaining that this "safety stock" is held in reserve in case of distribution problems caused by such things as weather delays or accidents. The safety stocks are there to ensure everyone gets the second booster vaccination on time.

A woman wearing personal protective equipment documents and verifies if a patient has received a vaccine or placebo. Another woman holds a clipboard.
Vaccine Check
Alejandra Ornelas, a research pharmacy technician with Operation Warp Speed, documents and verifies whether a patient received a vaccine or placebo at Joint Base San Antonio, Oct. 28, 2020. The Food and Drug Administration authorized the restart of AstraZeneca’s Phase 3 clinical trial, Oct. 26, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Melody Bordeaux
VIRIN: 201028-F-JG587-1017Y

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — in collaboration with CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens Company, other pharmacies and the states — created a very elaborate campaign strategy to get the vaccine to long-term health care facilities and first-line medical personnel who will be the initial priority group, he said.

"Our goal is every vaccine that goes out is safe and effective upon delivery. And, we wanted to make sure that deliveries occurred in the places where people could receive them and then begin administering the vaccine to the American people. And, it went incredibly well," he said. 

Perna said he's sometimes asked which people will be the first to receive the vaccine. "My comment was we've had over 100,000 people participate in trials. They were the first ones to receive the vaccine. They were the heroes to really help us get going."

A man wearing a military uniform speaks into a microphone.
Briefing Reporters
Army Gen. Gus F. Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, briefs the media on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Dec. 14, 2020.
Photo By: Screen capture
VIRIN: 201214-O-ZZ999-003M
A man looks ahead and speaks into a microphone.
Briefing Reporters
Alex M. Azar II, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, briefs the media on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Dec. 14, 2020.
Photo By: Screen capture
VIRIN: 201214-O-ZZ999-001M

Azar noted that this weekend's shipment that is now being delivered consists of 2.9 million doses, which is enough to vaccinate 2.9 million people. Another 2.9 million doses is being held back to ensure those people get their second dose in 21 days.

Each Friday, Azar said, there will be updates on new numbers of vaccines that are being made available.

"It's likely that another vaccine may be authorized in the coming days if it meets the [Food and Drug Administration's] rigorous standards," he said, referring to the Moderna vaccine.

"Pending the successful authorization of other vaccine options, we have enough vaccines already purchased to ensure we can meet our goal of vaccinating every American who wants it by the end of the second quarter of 2021," Azar said. 

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