- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2020

President Trump plans to harness the logistical prowess of FedEx to immunize millions of Americans once federal regulators green-light the coronavirus vaccine next week, with shots entering arms within 48 hours of approval.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday said vaccines will be shipped by the Tennessee-based carrier and “other great companies” within 24 hours of the Food and Drug Administration granting emergency-use authorization to front-runners Pfizer and Moderna.

Health care workers and long-term care residents will begin receiving their first doses less than a day after the vaccines arrive at distribution sites in every state and territory.

“Help is on the way,” Mr. Pence said in a Memphis airport hangar dotted by two FedEx vans and three tractor-trailers.

The FDA is on track to approve Pfizer’s messenger-RNA vaccine after a Dec. 10 meeting with its advisory panel and then Moderna’s after a Dec. 17 session.

Mr. Pence said the U.S. is “days away from when we will begin to distribute tens of millions of doses of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine to the American people.”

Once approved, Pfizer will ship its vaccines in company-designed boxes through FedEx, and a federal distributor, McKesson Corp., will “marry” those vials with vaccine-administration kits procured by the federal government, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II.

Initial deliveries will contain 6.4 million doses of Pfizer shots and then 12.5 million doses of the Moderna version. The administration is holding back some doses to make sure recipients receive their second shot a few weeks later.

Mr. Trump’s vaccine initiative, Operation Warp Speed, will ship weekly allocations after the initial batches go out. An estimated 20 million Americans are expected to be inoculated before the end of the year.

FedEx officials said they are in the midst of their busiest holiday season ever, as shoppers tap into cyber deals, but the vaccines will have the highest priority in their pipeline.

A “global health crisis of this scale requires a network of our scale,” said Raj Subramaniam, FedEx’s chief operating officer.

The coronavirus is exacting a vicious toll on the country while Americans wait for the shots, with hospitalizations and daily deaths reaching record highs.

U.S. hospitalizations for COVID-19 surpassed 100,000 for the first time and more than 2,800 people died on Wednesday, topping the previous one-day high in mid-April.

The disease is spreading far and wide across the nation, making it difficult for overtaxed hospitals to borrow staff from elsewhere.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the initial vaccines should go to health workers and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, a population of 24 million out of the 330 million people in the U.S.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said future recommendations should prioritize people over age 70 who live in multi-generational households.

“Often our Hispanic, Black and Tribal Nations families care for their elderly in multigenerational households and they are also at significant risk,” he said.

Wendy Long, CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association, said vaccinations will keep their health care workers out of quarantine.

“Vaccination is the key to reducing the stress on our hospital system and reviving our economy,” she said.

Federal officials said Americans must continue to wear masks, remain physically distant from others and wash their hands while the vaccines are distributed through the spring.

“Stay with us a bit more as we bridge to that bright future,” Mr. Azar said.

The U.S. also needs to build a culture of trust about vaccines once they become widely available, Dr. Redfield said.

“It’s really sad, as an infectious disease expert, to see people leave vaccination on the shelf,” he said. “We are going to aggressively provide a safe and efficacious vaccine to the American public in the weeks ahead.”

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have said they would be willing to get vaccinated on camera, once they are eligible, to shore up confidence in the shots.

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