The U.S. plans to ship 2.9 million doses of Covid as early as the weekend

General Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for the Department of Defense’s Warp Speed ​​project, is speaking at a Warp Speed ​​vaccine summit at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, December 8, 2020.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. officials say the federal government plans to begin distributing 2.9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the week as soon as the Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency license to vaccinate Pfizer and BioNTech, which could be available as early as Thursday or Friday. .

General Gustave Perna, who oversees the logistics of Operation Donald Trump’s vaccination program for Operation Warp Speed, said an additional 2.9 million doses will be set aside for patients to get the second shot. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, three weeks apart. The government has also set aside 500,000 doses of reserves to produce an emergency or hiccups, he said.

Setting aside reserve doses is “good planning for general Army officers,” Perna said at a news conference on the distribution of the Covid vaccine on Wednesday, “to make sure we have some reserves if we have to respond to a situation.”

Eventually, the federal government and states will be “more confident” in the vaccine distribution process and no reserves will be needed anymore, ”Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, said at the same news conference. “We apply this method to initial distributions,” he added.

Officials say the initial doses will go to 64 jurisdictions as well as five federal agencies – the Prisons Office, the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Health Directorate. The Department of Defense plans to begin marketing the first 44,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine as early as next week, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Vaccine doses will be limited as production accelerates, officials predict it will take months for U.S. vaccination in the United States to be vaccinated. Slaoui said earlier that the U.S. should be able to distribute enough doses of the vaccine to immunize 100 million Americans – nearly a third of the U.S. population – by the end of February. He said the entire U.S. population could be vaccinated against Covid-19 by June.

Slaoui told reporters on Wednesday that the government may be willing to push another Covid vaccine to the public without holding a second dose “in mid-January or early February, when we rolled for five, six weeks, with great cadence. And that we see that things they roll perfectly. “

He said last week that there is a chance the United States could receive more doses than expected later next year if a potential vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is approved. He added that he expects the company to release late-stage key data in January. Officials are expected to distribute Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of this year.

Wednesday’s announcement comes a day before the FDA board plans to vote on whether to recommend approving the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use, the final step before the FDA will provide the final system for public distribution. If the meeting goes well and the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products formally recommends the vaccination, the FDA will “announce its approval in days,” Health and Human Rights Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday.

The vaccine is expected to be distributed in stages, with the Center for Disease Prevention and Control inviting states to give priority to health care workers and nursing homes.

States have already submitted early plans to the CDC on how they intend to vaccinate some 331 million Americans against Covid-19 after a vaccine is approved. The CDC has set aside $ 200 million for jurisdictions to prepare for vaccinations, although much of that funding has not yet dripped to the local level.

Last Friday, all 64 states, territories and other jurisdictions, as well as five federal agencies, completed their plan to distribute Pfizer’s vaccine, Perna said Wednesday. 36 states have told the CDC they want the initial dose to go to long-term health facilities, he added.