The Department of Transportation is prepared for “immediate mass shipment” of coronavirus vaccines within the U.S., department officials said Tuesday.
The department said in a news release that it has developed “appropriate safety requirements for all potential hazards involved in shipping the vaccine, including standards for dry ice and lithium batteries used in cooling.” Private sector firms will collaborate with government agencies to move the drugs from the manufacturers to distribution hubs.
Current plans involve delivering enough doses for about 40 million Americans through December and January, department officials told Reuters. The rollout of the vaccine will be prioritized, with the first doses going to health care workers. These workers could be given their first dosage within a day of Pfizer’s vaccine being granted emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
“The department has laid the groundwork for the safe transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine and is proud to support this historic endeavor,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement.
In November, transportation officials conducted a trial run to test its capacity to rapidly ship deliveries of the drug in the space of a few weeks, Reuters reported.
The Transportation Department has also ensured flight crews will be able to fly uninterrupted and deal with additional cargo demand. United Airlines is set to distribute shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine through charter flights.
Pfizer and its partner on the vaccine, German firm BioNTech, received emergency authorization from the United Kingdom’s drug regulation body on Wednesday, becoming the first to issue such an authorization.
“Help is on its way,″ British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC. “We now have a vaccine. We’re the first country in the world to have one formally clinically authorized but, between now and then, we’ve got to hold on, we’ve got to hold our resolve.”