(Noted News) — COVID-19 vaccines are getting packed into cargo planes and trucks for distribution across the U.S., in what is believed to be the largest organized immunization program ever. The vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, was authorized by the FDA only 2 days before the mass rollout, which aims to reach at least 100 million people.
The country-wide distribution program began in FedEx and USPS delivery hubs in Kentucky and Tennessee, and is now branching out across the U.S., initially arriving at high priority areas like the nearest vaccination centers and health care provider facilities.
Andy Beshear, governor of Kentucky, believes that the first doses will be administered in his home state near the USPS Worldport center in Louisville, tweeting,
Kentucky has dealt with nearly 230,000 cases of COVID-19 to date.
Complicating the process, the vaccines must be kept in industrial-strength freezers during delivery as well as storage at health care facilities. Pfizer is shipping the freezers from their center in Michigan to the delivery hubs in Kentucky and Tennesee, before being shipped out to hundreds of different vaccination centers. This process will repeat in multiple waves until the target of 100 million doses is achieved.
To help with the massive scope of the delivery program, USPS subcontracted Boyle Transportation, which has been using security guards in body armor to help move the vaccines to and from the various checkpoints.
Delivery of Christmas gifts and regular packages will be given second priority under the vaccines by FedEx and USPS, likely causing a delay in holiday deliveries.
According to Pfizer and BioNTech, the COVID-19 vaccine has a 95% success rate in preventing the disease, and is suitable for those 16 and over. The FDA said in a statement that the vaccine uses a small piece of the SARS virus to trigger the body’s immune system into producing defense mechanisms against the COVID-19 virus.
“The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine contains messenger RNA (mRNA), which is genetic material. The vaccine contains a small piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s mRNA that instructs cells in the body to make the virus’s distinctive “spike” protein. When a person receives this vaccine, their body produces copies of the spike protein, which does not cause disease, but triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against SARS-CoV-2.”
The FDA technically did not approve the vaccine due to time constraints, and instead issued an emergency use authorization (EUA).
Though the rollout of the vaccine is sparking optimism and hope for the end of lockdowns and economic disaster, the 100 million doses will only cover about 30% of the American population. It’s also unclear if that many people will even end up taking it. Vaccine skepticism, largely stemming from the rushed development, is posing a threat to a thorough distribution of the jab.
According to a Gallup poll in November, over 42% of Americans do not plan on getting the vaccine.
“In a follow-up question, 37% of Americans who would not get a vaccine say the rushed timeline for the development of the vaccine is the main reason they would not be vaccinated. Another 26% say they want to wait to confirm the vaccine is safe. Rounding out the reasons for some Americans’ hesitancy are 12% saying they don’t trust vaccines in general and 10% who want to wait to see how effective the vaccine will be. An additional 15% cite other reasons for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Included among these reasons are the politicization of the vaccine potentially comprising its safety and the view that the vaccine is not necessary.”
Moncef Slaoui, the head of the Trump administration’s Operation Warpspeed, said he was concerned by the skepticism and believes it’s essential that most people take the vaccine.
“It is, however, critical that most of the American people decide and accept to take the vaccine,” Slaoui said. “We are very concerned by the hesitancy that we see.”
Adding to the uncertainty, Bill Gates told CNN’s Jake Tapper that “mostly normal” was only reachable by the summer of 2021, and that most bars, restaurants, and large gatherings will have to be restricted for the next four to six months.
As it stands, the US is approaching 17 million COVID-19 cases and has exceeded 300,000 deaths.