Federal health officials on Wednesday expressed confidence that every state will have access to at least some doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for distribution within 24 hours after authorization.
“Every jurisdiction will have access immediately upon the initial push of the vaccine,” Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, said during a call with reporters.
Perna said after the initial push there will be weekly distributions as more doses become available.
While no vaccine has been given the OK yet, Pfizer and BioNTech on Wednesday said they plan to seek emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration within days. The companies said data shows its vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing cases of COVID-19.
Pfizer and BioNTech’s announcement comes just days after Moderna said a similar vaccine reduced infections by almost the same amount. Experts and federal officials have cheered the results, which raise hopes that vaccines will be broadly available sometime next year.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said between the two vaccines and pending authorization, the country expects to have 40 million doses available by the end of the year, which is enough to vaccinate about 20 million people.
Right now, the United States is averaging more than 1 million new infections per week.
States have expressed concern over the logistics of distributing vaccines to such a large number of people in a short amount of time, and the administration has not yet told them how many doses each state will initially receive.
They have also asked for more than $8 billion to aid in the distribution, but the administration has given no indication additional resources are coming.
Perna said the administration will make sure distribution is equitable but did not provide details about initial dosage amounts.
He urged states to sign the agreements to share patient data with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so the federal government can more easily track who is receiving the vaccine and where, as well as which particular shot they get.
Perna also said states should not worry about the ultra-cold storage requirements for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, or nearly minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit, far colder than any standard freezer.
“What I’ve been coaching jurisdictions is, don’t be afraid of the constraints,” Perna said. “Don’t be afraid of the refrigeration requirements. If more is needed, the capability exists to purchase and have it delivered in a timely manner for both refrigeration and dry ice.”