An Army general on President Trump’s coronavirus team said distribution of Moderna’s vaccine has “already begun” and took personal responsibility for a mismatch between forecasted shipments of Pfizer’s vaccines and what states will receive.
“I am responsible. I take responsibility for the miscommunication,” Gen. Gustave Perna, a key member of Operation Warp Speed, told reporters Saturday. “When we had to decide what was going to be shipped out, I had to lower the allocations to meet the releasable doses that were presented to me.”
He said he failed to fully account for the Food and Drug Administration’s quality-control and review process, resulting in a disconnect that prompted complaints from governors.
In the process, “there is a delay between what is available and what is releasable,” Gen. Perna said.
He stressed it was a “planning error” and there is no problem with the vaccines.
Gen. Perna said the U.S. is still on track to get COVID-19 shots into 20 million Americans before the end of the year.
The FDA approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use late Friday, clearing the way for an initial shipment of 6 million doses on top of the Pfizer vaccine that was approved Dec. 11.
Already, the Pfizer shots are being given to health workers, nursing-home residents and senior members of the U.S. government.
Gen. Perna said the operation’s main distributor, McKesson Corporation, is working with FedEx and UPS to distribute the Moderna vaccines to the states, which will receive shipments through the week.
“America, we are ready to distribute that vaccine,” Gen. Perna said. “Boxes are being packed and loaded today. Trucks will begin rolling out tomorrow,”
The Moderna shots can be kept in a normal freezer and survive in a refrigerator for a month. Pfizer’s must be stored at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit and can last in the fridge for five days. What’s more, Moderna’s trays come in a 100-dose minimum compared to Pfizer’s 975.
Taken together, the conditions make Moderna’s version a better option for rural areas that want to allocate smaller amounts without wasting any shots.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna shots use “messenger RNA” that instructs the body to build defenses against the coronavirus.
The Pfizer vaccine requires a booster shots 21 days later. Patients who receive the Moderna vaccine should return for the second dose 28 days later.