Coronavirus Vaccine: Pfizer Selects States for Pilot Program

Coronavirus Vaccine Delivery

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With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, biopharmaceutical company Pfizer has launched a pilot delivery program in four U.S. states to explore ways to best distribute and store the vaccine.

The company released a statement Monday announcing the creation of the U.S. COVID-19 Immunization Pilot Program, which will take place in New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas. Pfizer said the residents of the four states won’t have any early access to the vaccine or “differential consideration”; rather, the company will use the four states as testing grounds to explore logistics and develop models to be used across the country once a vaccine becomes available.

“This pilot program and our collaboration with U.S. and state officials will help us prepare for broader vaccine deployment in the near future, subject to authorization or approval, as we work to address this urgent public health need,” Pfizer Bio Group President Angela Hwang said in the statement. “We are hopeful that results from this vaccine delivery pilot will serve as the model for other U.S. states and international governments, as they prepare to implement effective COVID-19 vaccine programs.”

The company announced earlier that its vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%, and no “serious safety concerns” have arisen in trials. On Friday, Pfizer released a statement confirming the company had applied for Emergency Use Authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “which will potentially enable use of the vaccine in high-risk populations in the U.S. by the middle to end of December 2020.”

Friday’s Pfizer statement said based on current projections, the company expects “to produce globally up to 50 million doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021,” and distribution can begin in the U.S. within hours of receiving approval from the FDA.

Here’s what you need to know:


Who Will Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine as Early as Possible? What’s the Priority Order?

There’s no official plan for which Americans would get priority access to the coronavirus vaccine, but a recent proposal by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) gives an indication of who would get access to the vaccine first.

In that proposal, health care workers and the medically vulnerable would receive the vaccine first. The definition of “medically vulnerable” doesn’t just include those with pre-existing health conditions in this proposal; it would also include the elderly who live in high-population areas. Homeless people and incarcerated individuals would also receive the vaccine earlier rather than later.


Why Were Those Four States Chosen for the Vaccine Delivery Pilot Program?

New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas were selected for Pfizer’s pilot program partly because of their specific combination of rural and urban areas, Pfizer said; this geographic spread could pose a problem in regards to vaccine distribution, particularly because the vaccine must be stored at extremely cold temperatures — almost 100 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit.

The four states were also selected because of “their differences in overall size, diversity of populations, and immunization infrastructure,” Pfizer said.

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