A major tide-turner of the pandemic seems to be on the horizon.
Three FedEx, UPS, and Boyle Transportation semi-trucks left the Pfizer manufacturing plant on Sunday morning, carrying the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The caravan of trucks—led and trailed by unmarked police cars—was met with cheers from local residents in Portage, Michigan upon their departure.
"I’m proud of our Pfizer," local resident, Susan Deur, told the Detroit Free Press. Deur and others braved the 35-degree weather to watch the trucks leave.
About 6.4 million doses of the company's vaccine were in the trucks and could be injected into high-risk citizens as early as Monday. Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is the first to be approved by the federal government and is reportedly close to 95% effective. Although it was able to gain the blessing of the CDC, there are still a few difficulties with the vaccine.
Pfizer's vaccine must be frozen at the ultra-cold temperature of minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for storage, making shipments to public health agencies and hospitals a challenge. Also, these buildings must have a way to store the vaccine as it can only be thawed at room temperature for two hours before it loses its effectiveness. The company did create thermal shippers that will keep the vaccine frozen for up to 10 days. It will also use these containers to ensure the vaccine makes it to its proper destination.
"We will utilize GPS-enabled thermal sensors with a control tower that will track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment across their pre-set routes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Pfizer said in a fact sheet about the distribution.
Pfizer's vaccine will require two doses that are at least 21 days apart. Despite the distance, the company feels it can adequately vaccinate up to 20 million Americans in December alone.
"Vaccines will only bring this pandemic to an end if enough Americans choose to take these vaccines," U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said. "Having substantial quantities of a safe and effective vaccine that's been authorized by FDA before the end of the year is a remarkable achievement and it will start saving lives very soon."