Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gave his approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccinations on Sunday, as shipments of the vaccine left a Michigan facility and were being sent to hundreds of distribution centers nationwide.
The green light from the CDC chief means vaccinations can be administered in the United States.
The first of nearly 3 million doses of the first COVID-19 vaccine were packed in dry ice and put on trucks early Sunday at a Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo. Workers applauded as the first truck left the plant carrying a load of the vaccine, The New York Times reported.
“Last night, I was proud to sign the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation to use Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in people 16 and older,” Redfield said in a statement.
On Saturday, an advisory committee for the CDC voted to recommend the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for Americans aged 16 and older.
Eleven members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted in favor of the measure, with three committee members recusing themselves.
“It’s a hugely important step,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told The Washington Post.
“The authorization of our vaccine in the United States was one of our most important milestones from the beginning,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told CNN from BioNTech’s headquarters in Mainz, Germany.
Delivery rivals UPS and FedEx are working side by side to ship the vaccines, the Times reported.
The two shipping companies said they put plans into action after the Food and Administration gave the vaccine emergency authorization on Friday, the newspaper reported. More than 2.9 million doses of the vaccine are to begin traveling by plane and guarded truck from Pfizer facilities in Michigan and Wisconsin to designated locations, mostly hospitals, nationwide the Times reported.
At a news conference on Saturday, Gen. Gustave F. Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said boxes were being packed at Pfizer’s plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and would be shipped to UPS and FedEx distribution hubs, where they would be dispersed to 636 locations across the country. Pfizer said shipping would start early Sunday morning, according to the Times.
“I know we’re going to have very tough and sad times ahead because of the surge and a limited vaccine supply, but I am really hopeful that this is the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic,” Peter G. Szilagyi, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California at Los Angeles, told the Post.
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