As it awaits emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pharmaceutical company Pfizer is rolling out plans to distribute its coronavirus vaccine. A week after it announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective, the company has launched a pilot delivery program in four U.S. states in an effort to "help better support the states' planning, deployment, and administration" of the vaccine.
The four states chosen include Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee. Pfizer said these states were selected due to their differences in overall size, diversity of populations, immunization infrastructure, and need to reach individuals in varied urban and rural settings. Pfizer confirmed that these states will not, however, receive vaccine doses earlier than other states, nor will they receive any differential consideration.
The goal of the pilot delivery program is to "help refine the plan for the delivery and deployment" of the vaccine. Distribution of the vaccine faces numerous challenges. The vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70 degrees Celsius (minus 94°F) to maintain optimal efficacy. The standard for vaccines, however, is 2-8 degrees Celsius (36-46°F), meaning that not all spaces are currently equipped for the vaccine and proving difficult for shipping across the country. Pfizer said that information from the program will be adapted for usage across other states to help them create effective immunization programs.
"This pilot program and our collaboration with U.S. and state officials will help us prepare for broader vaccine deployment in the near future, subject to authorization or approval, as we work to address this urgent public health need," Angela Hwang, Group President, Pfizer Bio Group President, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, said in a statement. "We are hopeful that results from this vaccine delivery pilot will serve as the model for other U.S. states and international governments, as they prepare to implement effective COVID-19 vaccine programs."
Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, have a $1.95 billion deal to supply 100 million doses of the vaccine to the U.S. government. Pfizer's chief executive has said that 30 to 40 million doses of the vaccine could be available by the end of the year. This would be enough for 15 to 20 million people, as the vaccine requires an initial shot, which is followed by a booster shot three weeks later. The initial round of doses will go to those considered high priority, such as essential workers and the elderly. Pfizer and BioNTech predict that they could eventually be producing 1.3 billion doses a year.