Leaders of Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s efforts to distribute a Covid-19 to Americans, held a press briefing this afternoon detailing specifics of the upcoming distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Distribution is well underway for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that the US Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use on Friday. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that 2.9 million doses of the vaccine will be sent out over the course of the week.
ER nurse George Biddle receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Photograph: Adam Cairns/AP
The 2.9 million doses will be sent out to 1,217 sites over the course of the week, with 636 sites receiving the vaccine by Wednesday and another 581 receiving doses by the end of the week, barring no disruptions in transit.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires a second booster shot, administered at least 21 days after the first dose, and Azar confirmed they will ship out 2.9 million more doses for second doses.
The federal government has ordered 6 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to be shipped once it is approved by the FDA for emergency use, Azar said, which could happen as early as Friday.
Gustave Perna, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, noted that severe snowstorms coming into the Northeast and north Midwest could potentially cause disruptions in transit. But, he said, there is a “constant flow of available vaccine” being shipped out.
Dr Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific officer for Operation Warp Speed, confirmed that they believe 100 million people will have gotten the first dose of the vaccine – Moderna’s vaccine also requires a second dose – by the end of March.
Azar said that the federal government has “enough vaccines purchased for every American who wants it by the second quarter of 2021” and said the government can purchase more if necessary.
But the leaders of Operations Warp speed alluded to the fact that such a timeline relies on the approval of the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstroZeneca, which are still in the middle of the last clinical trial stage.
Johnson & Johnson is expected to go into committee review with the FDA in February, while the timeline for AstroZeneca’s vaccine is unclear as the trial has paused multiple times for safety review. Both vaccines only require one dose of the vaccine.
The leaders of Operation Warp Speed plan to hold briefings every Friday to update the number of vaccines that have been distributed and administered.