The US prepares thousands of boxes with Moderna vaccines to begin distribution this Sunday

View of the headquarters of Modern Biotech, in Norwood, Massachusetts.  EFE / Cj Gunther / Archive
View of the headquarters of Modern Biotech, in Norwood, Massachusetts. EFE / Cj Gunther / Archive

With the help of the Armed Forces, United States logistics operators are filling this Saturday thousands of ultra-cold boxes with Moderna’s vaccines against COVID-19 to start distributing them this Sunday to more than 3,700 points in the country and start the first injections on Monday.

“The boxes are being prepared and loaded today”, announced at a press conference on Saturday the Army general, Gus Perna, responsible for Operation Warp Speed, organized by the White House with the help of the Pentagon to accelerate the immunization campaign of the population.

Modern, based in Cambridge (Massachusetts), already has transported the vaccines from its manufacturing plants to the warehouses of the American giant McKesson, dedicated to the distribution of medicines and which will be in charge of transporting Moderna’s vaccine.

At the McKesson facility, the workers are right now packing the vaccines in refrigerated boxes, Perna explained in his press conference.

Gustave Perna in charge of the Armed Forces of Operation Warp Speed.  Chip Somodevilla / Pool via REUTERS
Gustave Perna in charge of the Armed Forces of Operation Warp Speed. Chip Somodevilla / Pool via REUTERS

Tomorrow Sunday those boxes, which contain each 100 doses, will begin to be transported by land and air to more than 3,700 points in the country, a task that will fall to the logistics operators FedEX and UPS.

Vaccines They will leave tomorrow from the facilities that McKesson has in Louisville (Kentucky) and in Memphis (Tennessee), among others, since these two points are the closest to FedEX and UPS air distribution centers, the preferred means of transporting vaccines as quickly as possible.

More than 3,700 destinations in the first week

The objective is that Moderna’s vaccines will arrive next week to more than 3,700 points in the United States, which includes hospitals and pharmacies, since health workers have priority when receiving the first doses.

This operation to transport the vaccine to more than 3,700 points in the United States is much larger than the one organized to distribute the serum of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer in 636 locations, the first approved by the authorities and that 2.9 million Americans received this week.

FedEx and UPS are two of the key pieces in the campaign to distribute the vaccine in the US.  REUTERS / Rebecca Cook / File Photo
FedEx and UPS are two of the key pieces in the campaign to distribute the vaccine in the US. REUTERS / Rebecca Cook / File Photo

The giant Pfizer, known for making Viagra, organized its own system to distribute the vaccine in hospitals; but, Moderna, until recently a small startup, has had the help of the US Government within the framework of Operation Warp Speed.

The huge difference in the number of distribution points (from 636 to 3,700) is due to the storage requirements for each vaccine.

Serum Moderna will be transported in small refrigerated boxes that must maintain a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius; while the Pfizer vaccine needs larger bunkers as it must be surrounded by dry ice to stay in the -60 to -80 degree range.

All doses, whether from Moderna or Pfizer, travel with a strong security device, integrated among others by the US Marshals Corps, and must be stored in locked refrigerators.

FedEx improved its ability to transport vaccines in 2009, during the outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic.  (FedEx)
FedEx improved its ability to transport vaccines in 2009, during the outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic. (FedEx)

20 million doses by the end of the year

If all goes well, by the end of the year, the 50 states of the USA will have 20 million doses of the vaccines against COVID-19, as initially promised, Perna said. However, the general announced that some of the shipments will not arrive until the first week of January, which is a slight delay.

For now 5.9 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine and another 2 million of Pfizer’s will be distributed next week across the country, greatly increasing the scope of the immunization campaign.

The vaccine Moderna received the go-ahead from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday night (FDA, in English), the body that regulates the marketing of drugs in the US and that on the 11th of this month already gave the green light to Pfizer’s serum.

Archive image.  Boxes containing Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are unloaded from air freight containers at UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky, United States.  December 13, 2020. Michael Clevenger / REUTERS / Pool
Archive image. Boxes containing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are unloaded from air freight containers at UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. December 13, 2020. Michael Clevenger / REUTERS / Pool

The two vaccines have to be administered in two doses. Moderna claims that its product is 94.1% effective, while Pfizer claims its product is 95%.

The United States “investigates” allergic reactions

During the start of the immunization campaign in the USA, isolated episodes of allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine in states like Alaska and Illinois, a rejection also experienced by two healthcare workers in the UK.

In response, the FDA is working with Pfizer to identify the cause of those allergic reactions, vaccine expert Doran Fink explained Saturday. during a meeting of the governmental Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

”The FDA is working very closely with our colleagues at CDC and also with the UK to investigate those reports of allergic reactions or suspected allergic reactions after use of the Pfizer vaccine”Said Fink, who nonetheless insisted that it remains safe.

Vaccination campaign among US health workers REUTERS / Bryan Woolston
Vaccination campaign among US health workers REUTERS / Bryan Woolston

In the case of Modern, three volunteers have suffered allergic reactionsAlthough two of them received the placebo and not the actual vaccine, so the event is being investigated.

The start of a massive immunization campaign against covid-19 in the US comes at the worst moment of the pandemic, with 17.5 million infections and more than 314,000 deaths, more than any other country in absolute terms, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Beatriz Pascual Macías for EFE

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Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.