One day after the announcement that Pfizer has created a vaccine that’s 90% effective against COVID-19, a panel has broken people into four phases, based on priority, to determine when everyone would receive the vaccine.
A U.S. advisory panel laid out who could get priority in receiving the vaccine, starting with frontline doctors, nurses, first responders, nursing home workers and people of all ages with two or more risk factors.
The next phase would include teachers, school staff members, childcare workers and people working in the food supply chain.
Phase three would include children and adults ages 30 and younger.
Phase four would include everyone else living in the United States.
Creating an effective vaccine is only the beginning of a much longer process to actually start vaccinating people across the country.
Although the Pfizer vaccine isn’t officially authorized for distribution, preparations are already underway across America to get it into people’s arms. That’s because this is a new type of vaccine that’s much more complicated and requires extra planning.
The COVID-19 vaccine creates a massive logistical challenge. How do you move hundreds of millions of doses to Americans across the country?
Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept at 70 degrees below zero Celsius.
While it waits to submit the vaccine for emergency Food and Drug Administration approval, Pfizer is already setting up a deep cold storage supply chain, using suitcase-sized cooling boxes to ship critical supplies to doctors and hospitals nationwide.
“Once they take it out of the ice, they can keep it five days in the normal fridge,” Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said. “We have worked extensively to develop these distribution network and they feel very good about this.”
According to Pfizer, it will ship doses from its facilities in Michigan and Wisconsin. With each person needing two shots, the company expects to have enough for 25 million people worldwide this year.
Keep in mind that the Pfizer vaccine is only one of potentially several that will hopefully become available in the future. Each one of hem will have its own supply chain requirements, which is why the military is managing the vaccine distribution -- a task that would ordinarily fall to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
Once there are multiple vaccine choices available, there will be no interchangeability between the first and second doses of a vaccine.
That will also pose a challenge, because as people get vaccinated, they’ll have to keep track of the specific vaccine they received and when they need the second dose. For example, Pfizer’s are spaced 21 days apart, while Moderna’s are spaced 28 days apart.