Pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer began shipping doses of its COVID-19 vaccine on Friday via chartered cargo flights between Brussels, Belgium, and Chicago to have stockpiles in position for distribution as soon as it is approved for inoculations by regulators. The Wall Street Journal reported citing unidentified sources.
The Journal said United Airlines charters were transporting the vaccine in dry ice and that the air carrier had been granted permission to carry 15,000 pounds of the solid form of carbon dioxide, five times the normal amount allowed, to keep the drug at or below the temperature to prevent spoiling.
It added that New York-based Pfizer has designed suitcase-size boxes for dry ice to keep the vaccine cold instead of the more common larger, temperature-controlled containers to offer more flexibility and speed in distribution.
The FAA said in a statement Friday that it was supporting the ”first mass air shipment of a vaccine”.
Pfizer announced on Nov. 9, six days after the U.S. presidential election, that trial results showed its vaccine had a 90% effective rate.
The Journal said its distribution plan for the vaccine, developed in conjunction with BioNTech SE of Germany, includes refrigerated storage sites at Pfizer’s facilities in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Puurs, Belgium, and expanding storage capacity at distribution sites in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and in Karlsruhe, Germany. The plan also includes dozens of flights and hundreds of truck trips each day.
A Dec. 10 meeting is scheduled by the Food and Drug Administration for a panel of outside advisers to review data from Pfizer and vote whether to recommend granting the company’s request to begin distribution. If approved, inoculations could begin in mid-December.