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United Airlines is Already Flying Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine Across the United States, Reports

United Airlines is Already Flying Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine Across the United States, Reports

United Airlines is believed to already be shipping the eagerly anticipated Pfizer / Biontech COVID-19 vaccine across the United States and even further afield just weeks after airline chief executive, Scott Kirby said the Chicago-based carried would play a leading role in distributing the jabs. The vaccines are being positioned early to key locations ready to be used as soon as approval is given sources claim.

Pfizer is producing the vaccine on a mammoth scale at its production facilities in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Puurs, Belgium ready for distribution as soon as the company receives emergency use approval from the FDA or healthcare regulators in other countries. Massive distribution centers are also located in Wisconsin and Germany

Distributing the Pfizer vaccine comes with unique challenges, however, including the fact that the vials have to be stored -70C (-94F) until just a few days before they are to be injected. Luckily Pfizer has developed a special storage box that’s packed with dry ice but even then United needed to obtain special permission from the FAA to load so much dry ice on a plane.

Last week, the drug company confirmed that it was working on a pilot program for the mass distribution of the vaccine with a particular focus on how they would get the vaccine to Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee. The four states were chosen because they are so different from one another and all have different distribution challenges.

The U.S. government has paid $1.95 billion for 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and has options for an additional 500 million doses. Other vaccines, including the AstraZeneca vaccine, can be stored at normal fridge temperatures which should make distribution significantly easier.

The FAA told the Wall Street Journal that is was supporting the “first mass air shipment of a vaccine,” without naming a specific airline, although the agency did say it was working with a number of carriers on getting vaccines distributed.

While United has declined to comment on the reports, the airline may well be helping out in initial trials or early distribution. But it will take more than one airline to distribute vaccines for the world. Carriers are gearing up for the huge logistical challenge set to unfold early next year as the race begins to vaccinate billions of people.

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