The federal government said Friday it supported the first mass shipment by air of a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“As a result of the historic pace of vaccine development through Operation Warp Speed and careful logistics planning, the FAA today is supporting the first mass air shipment of a vaccine,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.
Operation Warp Speed is a public-private effort to speed the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
The FAA established a COVID-19 vaccine air transport team in October to make sure vaccines for the disease could be transported safely, quickly, and efficiently.
“Several vaccines need continued cold temperatures during transport, which, in some circumstances, require dry ice, a hazardous material. The FAA is working with manufacturers, air carriers, and airport authorities to provide guidance on implementing current regulatory requirements for safely transporting large quantities of dry ice in air cargo,” the administration stated.
Two vaccine candidates appear close to being ready for distribution and administration. Pfizer this week applied for emergency use authorization for its candidate, developed with BioNTech, and Moderna is planning to file an application soon.
As part of Operation Warp Speed, the vaccine candidates were manufactured even with the possibility they wouldn’t prove safe or effective.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory committee is meeting Tuesday to decide who will receive the first doses of the vaccines. Approval of vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration is required before their administration. An advisory committee to the administration is set to meet on Dec. 10, setting up the potential for doses to start being given shortly after.
United Airlines on Friday began operating charter flights to position doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
A United spokesperson declined to comment on that report but told The Epoch Times that the company established a team over the 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 spokesperson added. “The safety and security of these commodities is our priority and we are proud to be a trusted partner in these efforts.”
Other airlines are also preparing to fly the vaccines.
“We have established a network of team members that specialize in temperature-critical shipments, and work closely with the FAA on regulations governing shipments transported with dry ice. We have worked with the FAA to increase dry ice limits on our widebody cargo-only flights,” American Airlines said in a statement to news outlets.
Pfizer says its vaccine needs to be shipped at negative-94 degrees Fahrenheit. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, told reporters this week that Pfizer’s vaccine is great but distribution is complicated because of the temperature requirements.
Pfizer launched a pilot program earlier this month with four states—Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee—to help states plan better for deployment and administration of the vaccine.
Doug Parker, American’s CEO, said in a post on LinkedIn that the company is “getting ready to play a critical role in distributing COVID vaccines as soon as they’re ready.” American successfully moved a trial of a major pharmaceutical company’s thermal packaging from Miami to South America, he said.
FedEx and DHL International have taken steps to be able to ship vaccines and track them while UPS and Deutsche Lufthansa are building groups of freezers at airport hubs to store vaccines in between flights, the Journal reported.