Rollout of US COVID-19 vaccines is 'on track' to get 20 million Americans vaccinated this year


The massive rollout of coronavirus vaccines is ‘on track,’ to vaccinate 20 million Americans by year-end, with millions of doses of Pfizer’s delivered to all 636 planned locations in the first wave of shipments, Operation Warp Speed says. 

Officials did not specify how many Americans have received their first doses of vaccine in the past three days. HHS told DailyMail.com in an email that the agency is waiting for states to report these figures.  

Another two million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will be shipped next week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said during the Wednesday press briefing. 

Assuming it is authorized by the FDA, 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine will be shipped next week.   

The first round of Pfizer’s initial wave of 2.9 million doses of its vaccine have now been delivered to all 50 states. 

They have mostly been administered to high-risk health care workers, but two states – Florida and West Virginia – have already started vaccinating nursing home residents, General Gustave Perna revealed.  

‘Vaccine confidence is surging,’ said Azar, referring to an ABC News/Ipsos poll that found that more than 80 percent of Americans plan to get a vaccine (though most want to ‘wait a bit’) and Kaiser Family Health Foundation poll that showed more than  70 percent of people in the U.S. want the shot.  

It’s a long-awaited and crucial step to batting back the COVID-19 pandemic’s grip on the US, where the death toll has surpassed 300,000, with more than 3,000 deaths reported Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.  

By around mid-January, some 37,000 brick-and-mortar pharmacies – an expansion from current distribution to hospitals – should get their first shipments of vaccine doses, he added. 

But there’s a long way to go. Dr Anthony Fauci said that 85 percent of Americans will need to be vaccinated for the U.S. to reach ‘herd immunity’ during a Wednesday Good Morning America appearance.

Testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir urged on CNN that masking and social distancing remain ‘absolutely imperative,’ as vaccines roll out.  

While the rollout is on track, officials hinted at tensions between Pfizer and the U.S. government. 

‘We have had less visibility’ into Pfizer’s manufacturing and supply chain, compared to other vaccine makers like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, Secretary Azar said. 

Operation Warp Speed officials Dr Moncef Slaoui (left), General Gustav Perna (right) and  HHS  Secretary Alex Azar (center) said  the US vaccine rollout is 'on track' on Wednesday

Operation Warp Speed officials Dr Moncef Slaoui (left), General Gustav Perna (right) and  HHS  Secretary Alex Azar (center) said  the US vaccine rollout is ‘on track’ on Wednesday 

Doses of Pfizer's vaccine started rolling out Monday. Most states gave their first shots to health care workers like infectious disease expert Dr Christopher Ohi of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina (pictured)

Doses of Pfizer’s vaccine started rolling out Monday. Most states gave their first shots to health care workers like infectious disease expert Dr Christopher Ohi of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina (pictured) 

The country has been anxiously eyeing the rollout of Pfizer’s vaccine, which has to be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures. 

Pfizer quickly developed special shipping boxes packed with dry ice and equipped with the thermometer and geo-locator to trigger an alert if the vaccine starts to thaw, which could render it unviable.

For the most part, the first-of-its kind system worked well. 

On Monday, doses were delivered to 145 locations in the U.S., General Perna said – including Northwell Health in Long Island, New York, where an ICU nurse became the first American to get the shot outside a trial. 

On Tuesday, another 425 doses were delivered, and vaccines arrived at the remaining 66 locations among Operation Warp Speed’s planned first wave sites on Wednesday morning. 

The general did not specify how many more doses will be shipped throughout the rest of today, but said that vaccines will go to another 886 locations tomorrow.

Distributors will ‘continue the steady drum beat of vaccine delivery to the American people,’ he said.  

General Perna added that Operation Warp Speed plans not to make deliveries on Fridays – including on Christmas day, next week – aside from emergencies.

Shipments were mostly delivered without incident to every state, including Nevada, by FedEx and UPS (pictured). Four trays of vaccines sent to California and Alabama dropped to temperatures below the minimum -94F, but never left the truck, General Perna said

Shipments were mostly delivered without incident to every state, including Nevada, by FedEx and UPS (pictured). Four trays of vaccines sent to California and Alabama dropped to temperatures below the minimum -94F, but never left the truck, General Perna said

There have been a small number of temperature control issues so far. 

Temperatures dropped below -94 degrees Farenheit in four trays of vaccines: Two trays that were shipped to separate California locations and two shipped to one Alabama location. 

Operation Warp Speed ‘noticed the temperature went lower, locked those trays down and they never left the truck,’ said General Perna. 

‘They were turned back to Pfizer and we sent trays immediately to replace them.’ 

 Pfizer and Operation Warp Speed are troubleshooting to work out why the temperature of the shipping containers dropped and whether the doses getting too cold instead of too warm does anything to harm them. 

All 50 states have received doses of vaccines, and begun administering them to high-risk health care workers. 

CDC recommends that health care workers and nursing home residents be vaccinated first, in no particular order.  

States get to decide exactly which groups they prioritize. 

Most are giving their very first doses to health care workers, but Florida and West Virginia decided to start vaccinating nursing home residents, too. 

The rest of the country is soon to follow, the officials said. 

‘Come Monday, we will have over 1,100 long term health care facility locations [getting vaccine doses] and will expand rapidly by thousands a day,’ said General Perna.   

Clinicians giving shots are on guard for allergic reactions, after two health care workers with histories of food and drug allergies who were vaccinated on the first day of the UK’s rollout of the shot went into anaphylactic shock. 

A health care worker in Alaska with no history of drug allergies suffered a similar reaction, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. 

Pfizer has a deal with the U.S. for 100 million doses of its vaccine, and the government is in negotiations with the company to acquire another 100 million doses  – but the Operation Warp Speed officials said that, even if an agreement is not reached, they will move ahead and have enough doses to get the U.S. to herd immunity with vaccines from Moderna and other firms like Johnson & Johnson. 

Already, Pfizer had to scale back the number of doses hoped to deliver globally in 2020 from 100 million to 50 million. 

In its first delivery to the U.S. following emergency approval from the FDA – given last Friday – Pfizer is handing over 2.9 million first doses of its vaccine, plus 2.9 million second doses, to be administered three weeks later, and another 500,000 on reserve.  

Operation Warp Speed officials did not reveal exactly how many doses of Pfizer’s vaccine have been delivered to the 636 planned U.S. locations, or how many Americans have actually gotten the shots. 

After cutting back its original global delivery for 2020 to 50 million, Pfizer still has not specified how many total doses it will provide to the U.S. by the end of the year. 

Co-chief of Operation Warp Speed, Dr Moncef Slaoui, said that Pfizer had previously been ‘unable to specify when doses would be delivered.’ 

‘We do not know the number of vaccine doses that could be produced month-to-month for the US market, or a general estimate. OWS (or any government) controls the breakdowns,’ a Pfizer spokesperson told DailyMail.com in an email. 

‘What we know is the overall supply not broken down month to month. 

‘There are several factors which have impacted the number of doses estimated to be available in 2020. For one, scaling up a vaccine at this pace is unprecedented, and we have made significant progress as we have moved forwards in the unknown.  

‘Please note that modifications to our full-scale production lines in the U.S. and Europe are now complete and finished doses are being made at a rapid pace. We are confident in our ability to supply at a pace of approximately 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.’ 

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