The chief executive of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company behind the development of a vaccine with 95% effectiveness against COVID-19, said this week that his company is ready to ship the vaccine “overnight” to most places in the United States once it receives emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Pfizer, who produced the vaccine in conjunction with German company BioNTech, is expected to submit a request for that authorization “within days,” according to a Wednesday press release about the conclusion of its Phase 3 human trials.
During an interview with the New York Times DealBook Online Summit the day before, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla explained that his company is prepared “to ship to most of the places [in the U.S.] overnight” — which is quite a feat considering the vaccine requires storage in vials at a temperature between -94 and -112 degrees Fahrenheit.
In order to distribute the vaccine safely and effectively, Pfizer produced special packaging containers to move the product while maintaining the required low temperature.
“Those boxes are isothermic boxes that have a GPS and also a temperature meter so we know at any point where the box is and what is the temperature so if something goes wrong, which we don’t anticipate, we will not use the vaccine,” explained Bourla in the interview. “Every box is a small box like that and can take 1,000 to 5,000 doses. And when we ship it, we don’t need to use refrigeration. So we can ship it in cars, trucks, planes, boats, whatever. In the US, we will ship to most of the places overnight.”
“So once we receive an address from the government, the next day the product will be there,” he continued. “And once people receive it they can keep it for weeks in the box or they can keep it for months in their freezers or they can put it in refrigeration and keep it for a week, approximately. I think that the demand will be so big, it’s going to be injected in hours rather than days or weeks. So we feel very confident about it.”
On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a final assessment of trial data on their vaccine showed it was 95% effective against the disease and that it had cleared the safety milestone required by the FDA for emergency use. The two companies added that the vaccine’s efficacy was consistent “across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics.”
“Based on current projections, the companies expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021,” they said in the statement.
A second vaccine, developed by Moderna, has also reported stunningly high success against COVID-19 in its human trials this week and also plans to apply for emergency use authorization in short order.
Barring any hiccups in the process, this means an effective vaccine could be available to millions of Americans by the end of the year.