United Airlines Delivers Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine for the First Time
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pledges support for the “first mass air travel” of the Covid-19 vaccine as pharmaceutical companies and airlines prepare their facilities for widespread deployment.
United Airlines delivered Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine from Brussels to Chicago International Airport on Friday, sources familiar with the matter said..
Pharmaceutical companies, airlines and other parts of the supply chain are preparing to distribute new vaccines in anticipation of obtaining approvals. As soon as regulatory authorities give the green light to their application, extensive networks will come into play, which will include cold stores for storing vaccines..
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet formally approved a Covid-19 vaccine. Pfizer, which developed its vaccine with BioNTech, and Moderna said recent trials show each of their vaccines is more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infection..
Press secretary Kim Benker previously said the company would not supply the vaccine until it receives FDA approval for emergency use. Pfizer filed for an emergency clearance on November 20, and the FDA is expected to publicly discuss it at its next meeting on December 10 of the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologicals. products. Moderna filed application on monday.
Some Americans will be able to receive their first dose of vaccine in a few weeks if any of the vaccines are approved by regulatory authorities without delay..
Pfizer vaccine requires storage temperature -70 degrees Celsius. By comparison, Moderna said its vaccine remains stable for up to 30 days at temperatures between +2 up to +7 degrees Celsius, the temperature of a standard home or medical refrigerator. And the vaccine can be stored for up to six months at -16 degrees Celsius.
Watch how Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is being distributed across the U.S.
The United Airlines flight, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, required special approval from federal regulators to carry more dry ice than is usually allowed, sources said. In this case, vaccines are stored at low temperatures..
Last month, the FAA created a task force to deal with «safe, fast and efficient transport of vaccines».
«Some vaccines require constant low temperatures during transport, which in some cases requires dry ice, a hazardous material, the FAA said in a statement. – The FAA is working with manufacturers, air carriers and airport authorities to provide guidance on how to meet current regulatory requirements for the safe transport of large quantities of dry ice on cargo aircraft».
Pfizer will initially be able to produce a limited batch of vaccine. Earlier it was reported that by the end of the year the company will be able to produce 50 million doses on a two-dose scheme – enough to immunize 25 million of the approximately 331 million people in the country. The company plans to ship frozen vaccine vials to vaccination sites from its facilities located in Kalamazoo in Michigan and Puurse in Belgium.
Other airlines are also preparing to ship the vaccine.
American Airlines Freight Division began test flights with its pharmaceutical partners from Miami to South America last week «for stress testing thermal packaging and the online process that we have created for vaccine delivery», spokeswoman said Stacy Day.
One of the upcoming challenges is that due to the pandemic, air cargo options have been limited. Since airlines have canceled so many flights, there is less space left in aircraft cabins to carry cargo. However, United and other airlines began operating only cargo flights to offset the loss of passenger revenue..
Airlines have been able to use their important role in transporting potentially life-saving vaccines as leverage to seek additional federal assistance, while passenger traffic remains only a fraction of last year’s levels..
«As the country looks ahead and takes on the logistics of distributing the vaccine, it will be important to ensure that there are sufficient certified personnel and aircraft to be able to carry out the mission adequately.», – notes in a letter to leaders of Congress the trade group Airlines for America, which represents the largest airline in the United States.
Several federal agencies have already begun sending out vaccination plans to staff. Five agencies began telling employees they could get the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna in just eight weeks, a source familiar with the plans told CNBC..