Alex Azar speaks at Operation Warp Speed’s press conference on November 24, 2020.
The U.S. federal government is practicing some test shipments of the coronavirus vaccine distribution network this week, as the drugs are only awaiting emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a few weeks.
Dry running is part of Trump administration’s vaccination program, in line with Operation Warp Speed’s vaccination program, Alex Azar, the minister for health and human services, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday. Shipments that do not include vials of the actual vaccine are being tested by systems used by state health departments to order vaccine doses, “to make everything go smoothly,” Azar said.
Pfizer, which is developing its vaccine with BioNTech, applied to the FDA on Friday for emergency use approval. The FDA is expected to review the Pfizer vaccine The Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products will meet the next day December 10. Moderna is expected to submit its application in the coming days so that both vaccinations can be tested at the same time.
“If all goes well, we can distribute the vaccine soon after Dec. 10,” Azar said. “We believe we can distribute the vaccine in all 64 countries within 24 hours of FDA approval. Then we hope administration can begin as soon as the product arrives.”
The United States is aiming to deliver 40 million doses of Covid-19 by the end of the year. Initial doses would be a priority for healthcare workers and people most at risk for serious illness. Last week, Pfizer announced that it had selected four states – Texas, New Mexico, Tennessee and Rhode Island – to operate a pilot delivery program aimed at developing kinks in the company’s distribution system.
As part of the program, the company will ship saline-filled vials before it begins shipping the actual vaccine, Pfizer spokesman Kim Bencker said.
“We are constantly working on this,” said General Gustave Perna, who is leading the federal government’s efforts to spread the vaccines. “We’re working on rehearsals for different scenarios to make sure of every shade of childbirth, but we’re getting stronger every week. No one loses if you listen, we’re a week closer to spreading the vaccine.”
CNBC Will Feuer and Berkeley Lovelace contributed to this report.
This is an evolving story. Please check back later for updates.