PORTAGE, Mich. – A year ago today in December 2020, a huge logistics operation began to ship millions of COVID-19 vaccines to hospitals across the country, and it all centered here in Michigan.
The eyes of the nation were on Portage, a city on Michigan’s west side in Kalamazoo County, just west of Battle Creek.
Workers at the Pfizer plant in Portage worked hard to prepare to ship the vaccines that Sunday morning.
“I have 100% confidence that we will get the vaccine to the American people,” said Gen. Gustave Perna at the time. “And it will be safe and it will be secure when it arrives.”
Perna, an Army General, had been working on Operation Warp Speed as its Chief Operating Officer -- the federal vaccine development program that worked to send out the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Within the next 24 hours, they will begin moving vaccine from the Pfizer manufacturing facility to the UPS and FEDEX hubs, and then it will go out to the 636 locations nationwide,” Perna said at the time. “Make no mistake, distribution has begun. Right now boxes are being packed and loaded with vaccine with emphasis on quality control.”
Nearly 150 facilities were to receive the vaccine that Monday and 425 locations were to get it that Tuesday.
“We want to make sure the vaccine arrives safely and that it can be safely administered when arrival occurs. It is so important that all vaccine that is available is utilized as a shot in the arm and nothing is wasted,” Perna said. “This is our sole focus, every single day, every waking minute that we have.”
Perna said the 2.9 million vaccines getting shipped out nationwide were only the beginning.
“This is a monumental week for us all as we distribute the first millions of doses of vaccine to the American people,” Perna said. “But each week that follows, we will have more doses ready for allocation and distribution.”