The United States’ first batch of the BioNTech and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines will start arriving on Monday morning, a U.S. official said on Saturday.
US Army General Gustave Perna said medical frontline health workers and senior citizens in care facilities will be the main recipients of the first wave of 2.9 million COVID-19 vaccines.
Perna’s announcement comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally gave the green light to the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine needed to end the pandemic.
Healthcare workers will begin to get vaccine shots as soon as Monday while nursing home residents will be receiving them by the end of next week, Perna said.
FDA said the vaccine can be given to people aged 16 and older.
Perna cited the huge logistical challenge the country faces, saying distributing and administrating the vaccine to about 330 million people would be a tough order to fill.
“We have a lot of work to do. We are not taking a victory lap. We know the road ahead of us will be tough,” Perna said.
The BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has complex distribution/shipping requirements as it needs to be stored at an extremely cold temperature, -90 degrees Fahrenheit. The vaccine will be shipped in special boxes of 1,000 to 5,000 doses and are stuffed with dry ice. Pfizer will use GPS-enabled sensors to track each shipment and ensure it stays cold.
Within a three-week period, the vaccine program popularly known as Operation Warp should be able to distribute the vaccine to all vaccination sites identified by states, such as healthcare facilities and local pharmacies.
The army official said doses of the vaccine will be delivered to some 145 locations around the United States on Monday.
He added that the remainder of the 636 delivery locations chosen by U.S. states and territories will get doses on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Perna compared the vaccination program to D-Day, the America-led military offensive that turned the tide in World War II.
“D-Day was the beginning of the end and that’s where we are today,” Perna said. He, however, admitted that it will take ”diligence, courage and strength to eventually achieve victory.”
President Donald Trump earlier lauded the FDA’s decision as he expressed elation that the vaccine will be free for Americans.