Amid mass deliveries of the first wave of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines, Gen. Gustave Perna, Operation Warp Speed chief operating officer, said 55 of the 145 initial distribution sites received shipments by around noon on Monday.
“Deliveries have begun today as we speak," Perna told reporters during a Monday call. "Of the 145 shipments the Secretary [Alex Azar] referenced, we know that 55 have been received and we will track the remaining [shipments] as we go through the day... We know the shipments for tomorrow’s deliveries have been packed and checked, we’ll be managing each of those.”
The first shipments of nearly 3 million doses were said to arrive in 145 distribution centers Monday across 50 states, with an additional 425 sites getting shipments Tuesday and the remaining 66 on Wednesday.
While Monday marked the initial push, the coming days will serve as a “drumbeat of continuous execution” of Pfizer’s vaccine, Perna said.
Officials also anticipate emergency authorization of Moderna’s vaccine candidate later this week. One of the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committees, VRBPAC, as well as the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, will meet on Thursday, Dec. 17, to discuss Moderna's emergency use authorization (EUA). Perna said the plan, pending FDA approval, is to ship just short of 6 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine to 3,285 locations nationwide, in a “very similar cadence” to the distribution of Pfizer’s vaccine.
"We're hitting the initial sites Monday, follow on Tuesday and Wednesday and then by the end of the week we're just in a routine cadence of execution," he said.
"As the secretary said, there is not one part of this country that’s not being touched today through Wednesday," Perna continued. "Everybody is receiving fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine and it's because of the commercial industry and the role they're playing in the distribution of the vaccine."
While front line workers were among the first to receive vaccinations on Monday morning, officials expect to see vaccinations in long-term care facilities and nursing homes this week. The states direct shipments of vaccines to desired locations and, Perna said, several states already established that vaccines will go into long-term care facilities this week.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with Walgreens, CVS and the states, created a campaign strategy for vaccine execution in long-term health care facilities. This week will involve a scaling start into distribution, and Perna said four states are ready to go in partnership with CVS and Walgreens to start scaling vaccination.
"We know on Monday, a week from today, over 1,100 long-term care facilities and nursing homes will also begin vaccination. So, very incredibly difficult plan as we work to touch over 70,000 long-term health care facilities and nursing homes collaborated and prioritized as the states want."
Some hurdles before vaccinations can begin in nursing homes include ensuring the right locations, facilities, obtaining patients' signed consent (thereby reaching out to families as well for approval), the correct number of doses, and vaccinating facilities' staff at the time same to "close the bubble on each facility," says Perna.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar added that states are encouraged to begin vaccinations in long-term care facilities sooner if pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS are ready to go faster.
"We expect to see vaccinations in nursing homes this week, and literally then by next week these pharmacy chains will have the ability to execute vaccination programs daily in thousands of long-term care and assisted living facilities."