- United Airlines charter flights between Brussels and Chicago carry Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- The flights are one stop in a chain, which will stretch from Chicago to distribution centers in the United States.
- Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at -103 degrees Fahrenheit, so flights would have special FAA approval to carry 15,000 pounds of dry ice.
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As drugmaker Pfizer seeks regulatory approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, shipments have already started to reach distribution centers via United Airlines charters, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the shipments, which require the vaccine candidate to be packaged in dry ice, according to CNN.
“Due to the historic pace of vaccine development through Operation Warp Speed and careful logistical planning, the FAA is today supporting the first mass aerial shipment of a vaccine,” the agency said. Friday in a statement.
The chartered flights, which began on Friday, were said to have been between Brussels and Chicago, the WSJ said. They represent one branch of a chain that will stretch from Chicago to distribution centers in the United States.
Pfizer, along with its German partner BioNTech, announced in early November that its vaccine was more than 90% effective in a clinical study. But this is just one of many being developed in a global rush to end the coronavirus pandemic.
Another vaccine from the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca was later found to be 70% effective, although AstraZeneca recognized an error in the dosages during testing. And Moderna’s vaccine was found to be 94.5% effective in one trial, the company said this week.
Today, even before the United States Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies issue approvals, supply chains are being put in place to get each vaccine to communities around the world. Pfizer’s vaccine candidate has its own shipping challenges, in part because it must be stored at a very low temperature, around -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry ice is generally limited on flights, but United has obtained FAA approval to carry around 15,000 pounds of it for each flight, according to the WSJ report.
Meanwhile, in the UK, some NHS hospital staff were reportedly told to expect doses of the vaccine to be distributed as early as December 7. Frontline workers, including hospital staff, are expected to be among the first to receive doses after government approval.
Last Monday, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency confirmed that it was working on vaccine study data from Pfizer and BioNTech. The agency did not release a timetable for approval, but said it “will aim to reach a decision as soon as possible,” according to a statement.
“It is our job now to rigorously assess this data and the submitted evidence on the safety, quality and efficacy of the vaccine,” June Raine, chief executive officer of the MHRA, said in a statement.
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