The CDC will use their centralized distribution contract to carry out orders for COVID-19 vaccines and supporting supplies. Pfizer and Moderna expect their vaccine candidates to be approved by the FDA before 2020 ends. An overview of the packaging and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the US has been provided below.
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Who Will Direct The Distribution?
- The federal government will procure and distribute COVID-19 vaccines and supporting supplies at no cost to enrolled providers of the vaccine. The CDC will make use of their centralized distribution contract to carry out orders for vaccines and supplies.
- The CDC’s “Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices” will approve prioritization pathways, which will depend on FDA’s opinion on the vaccine. Due to the high demand and anticipated insufficient supply initially, prioritization pathways will ensure that the vaccine is first accessible to the high risk, most vulnerable people.
How Vaccines Will be Shipped
- Pfizer has packaging with a cooling system that can keep the COVID-19 vaccine cold for “up to 30 days if it’s refilled with dry ice every five days.” This will be used to ship the vaccines and also for short-term storage. The system also has a thermal sensor that is GPS-enabled to track the shipment’s temperature and location, and the vaccine can be “stored in ultra-low-temperature freezers for up to six months.”
- COVID-19 vaccines with ultra-cold requirements for temperature will be shipped directly from manufacturers to the sites of the vaccination providers. The vaccines will be shipped “within 48 hours of order approval” to sites of providers enrolled in the jurisdiction’s immunization program. Ancillary items will be shipped separately from vaccines due to cold chain requirements, but they are expected to arrive on the day or before the day the vaccine arrives.
- During shipment, federally contracted vaccine distributors will use validated procedures to maintain the vaccine’s cold chain and reduce the likelihood of damage or loss of the vaccine. Once shipped, the federal government will not redistribute or take financial responsibility for redistributing the vaccine.
When Vaccines are Expected to be Delivered
- Pfizer and Moderna expect their vaccine candidates to be approved by the FDA before 2020 ends. Pfizer will ship only half of the COVID-19 vaccine it had planned to distribute in 2020, but In 2021, their goal is to distribute 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine.
- Due to the fact that distribution of early doses will be limited, it will likely be necessary for the vaccine to be allocated in phases, with the first phase focusing on healthcare and other essential workers, as well as people who are “at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness.”
- Approximately a third of U.S. COVID-19 deaths have been of long-term care facility residents. If a vaccine is approved soon, CVS is ready to administer vaccines in these facilities before the end of 2020.
- In a recent deal between Operation Warp Speed (the government’s vaccine program), Walgreens and CVS, long-term care facilities that sign up as partners to the program will be reached within three weeks. Those that do not sign up will be required to offer the vaccine through different sources such as local jurisdictions or approved local pharmacies.
Who Will Deliver The Vaccines?
- A reliable cold chain requires well-trained staff, “reliable storage and temperature monitoring equipment” and “accurate vaccine inventory management.” It starts at the vaccine manufacturing plant, involves delivery to and storage at the provider site, and ends when the vaccine is administered to a person.
- Pfizer will distribute their vaccine, but healthcare supplier McKesson will distribute Moderna’s vaccine as soon as it is approved. Other players in the distribution include airlines that will move the vaccines, and shippers such as DHL, FedEx and UPS who are getting ready for deliveries and improving their freezer storage.
- Vaccination providers and jurisdictions will be in charge of maintaining the quality of the vaccines from the time they arrive at the provider sites until they are administered.