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First Shipment Of Coronavirus Vaccine Leaves Pfizer Facility In Michigan
Medical syringes are seen with Pfizer company logo displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on October 12, 2020.
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The first shipment of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, given emergency approval in a landmark Food and Drug Administration decision late Friday, left a Michigan manufacturing plant Sunday morning — the first of many shipments in a massive, nationwide effort to vaccinate first responders and other essential workers against COVID-19.

“Freight trucks carrying about 184,275 vials of vaccine departed the plant, and the combined 189 boxes of vaccine vials are expected to arrive in all 50 states on Monday,” a local news station, near the Portage, Michigan, Pfizer plant, reported Sunday morning.

The first shipment will serve 150 separate distribution locations, and the vaccines will likely go to front-line healthcare workers and specific, at-risk populations, including residents of long-term and nursing care facilities. In some states, like New York, residents of such facilities account for tens of thousands of coronavirus-related deaths.

A second shipment, due out later this week, will supply sites serving a much larger population. By the end of December, Pfizer expects to have fully supplied more than 500 separate vaccination sites. Most of Sunday’s trucks were headed to a nearby airport, where they were loaded on board FedEx cargo planes.

“FedEx and UPS, along with United Airlines and American Airlines, will help distribute the vaccine to every state, territory, and the District of Columbia, as well as several major cities,” Politico noted Sunday.

“We expect 145 sites across all the states to receive the vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday, and the final 66 sites on Wednesday, which will complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer orders for the vaccine,”  Gen. Gustave Perna, the leading official for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort at supporting production and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine before the end of 2020, told CNN.

On Sunday, the United States also marked its 300,000 death from the disease, which has sicked millions worldwide since the pandemic began in earnest in March and April. The number is incomplete, though, as health experts noted, last week, that the first cases in the United States may have appeared in late 2019, not early 2020 as previously believed.

A Harvard report, analyzing traffic patterns in Wuhan, China — where the pandemic is believed to have originated — even suggested that, based on a sudden spike in the number of visits to hospitals, that the virus was spreading as early as last summer.

The vaccine is a singular achievement, as New York Magazine noted last week. Researchers were able to synthesize an effective vaccine almost immediately upon receiving information about the virus’ genetic sequence and had a working theory of what a vaccine might entail “before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States.”

Now the challenge will be distributing and delivering the vaccine and, ultimately, inoculating the world’s population.

“Roughly 2.9 million doses are going out in the first shipments,” Politico reported Sunday. “Federal officials from Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine accelerator, said another 2.9 million will be reserved for people to receive their second dose of the shot, which is to be administered three weeks later. The government is also holding 500,000 doses of the vaccine — developed by Pfizer’s German partner, BioNTech — in emergency reserves.”

Most Americans will have to wait until March or April to receive the vaccine, according to Operation Warp Speed officials. In addition to Pfizer’s vaccine, at least two other vaccines are in production and are expected to receive emergency FDA approval of their own shortly.

Related: FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccine For Emergency Use, Multiple Reports Say

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