United Airlines Holdings Inc., reportedly began operating charter flights on Friday to better position Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for distribution once the inoculation is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
United will fly the chartered planes between Brussels International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport as part of the “first mass air shipment of a vaccine,” supported by the FAA, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"United Cargo established a COVID Readiness Task Team earlier this summer to help ensure we have the right people, products, services, and partnerships in place to support a vaccine distribution effort on a global scale. We have made a commitment to our pharmaceutical and medical customers that we are ready to safely and effectively support their vaccines transportation needs," the airline said in a statement to Fox News. "The safety and security of these commodities is our priority and we are proud to be a trusted partner in these efforts."
The news of securing the charter flights comes as Pfizer has started to lay the foundation to move the vaccine quickly once the FDA and other regulators approve it.
According to the Journal, Pfizer has expanded storage capacity at specific distribution sites in Pleasant Prairie, Wisc., and Karlsruhe, Germany. The drug company plans to use suitcase-size frozen storage in cargo planes and trucks to distribute the vaccine around the world.
Pfizer did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.
United Airlines will be allowed to carry five times the amount of dry ice normally permitted on board to keep the vaccine at the necessary cold temperature.
Other cargo and passenger airlines have also begun preparing for future vaccine shipments, the Journal reported.
Previously, Andrew Peterson, assistant professor of philosophy at George Mason University had brought up the complex issue of transporting and distributing the vaccine due to the fact it must be stored at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius or below.
“The logistics of distributing the Pfizer vaccine, if proven to be safe and effective, will no doubt be a Herculean task,” Peterson told Fox News. “Beyond the challenge of physically transporting the vaccine by air and land to distribution centers across America and internationally, there are the additional obstacles of keeping the vaccine at sub-zero temperatures and monitoring deliveries for theft.”
The vaccine has been called more than 90 percent effective in percent effective at stopping people from getting sick during phase 3 trials.