Trucks departed the Pfizer plant in Portage, Michigan, Sunday morning with the first batches of the company’s long-awaited Covid-19 vaccine, en route to 636 predetermined locations.
Pfizer is expected to deliver an estimated 2.9 million doses this week via UPS and FedEx, Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said Saturday. The vaccines leaving Portage — a city just south of Kalamazoo — have U.S. marshal protection to ensure they arrive safely at the hospital systems selected to receive the doses, some as early as Monday.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company was leveraging manufacturing plants in Michigan, Missouri and Massachusetts to produce and distribute the vaccines quickly.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my fellow Pfizer colleagues and partners at BioNTech,” Bourla said in a video statement. "Their historic science-driven effort has delivered a vaccine with the potential to help bring an end to the most devastating pandemic in a century."
The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine late Friday night. The United Kingdom became the first country to approve and distribute the Pfizer vaccine last week, where an initial batch of 800,000 went to hospital workers, nursing home staff and residents and people over the age of 80.
At least two health care workers in the U.K. had allergic reactions to the vaccine and were recovering. Both individuals had a history of allergies.
FDA scientists "feel comfortable" telling the American people to get the vaccine unless they have known allergies to other vaccines or the Pfizer vaccine ingredients, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said Saturday.
"About 1.6 percent of the population has had a severe allergic reaction of some sort or another to a food or some environmental aspect," Marks said. "We would really not like to have that many people not be able to receive the vaccine."
Vaccine rollout in the U.S. will prioritize high-risk populations, such as hospital workers and nursing home staff and residents, to receive inoculations in the first phase. It’s unclear who will be prioritized in the second phase of the rollout.
Widespread vaccine availability for most Americans will likely occur in late spring or early summer next year, though residents in remote, rural locations may wait longer. Vaccines will be delivered at no cost, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Insurance providers will be expected to cover any fees associated with administering the inoculations, and the federal government will have a separate pool of funds for people who are uninsured.