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United Airlines flies FIRST batches of Pfizer COVID vaccine in US in refrigerated cases

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United Airlines flies FIRST batches of Pfizer COVID vaccine in US in refrigerated cases

United Airlines flies FIRST batches of Pfizer COVID vaccine into US in refrigerated cases to prep for mass distribution

  • Pfizer are readying for distribution of the first batches of the COVID vaccine
  • The vaccine is still not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • The FDA will meet on December 10 in a public hearing to consider the data 
  • Vaccine will be flown around the country in special conditions to keep it cold
  • The Pfizer vaccination must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius
  • The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is giving permission for dry ice to be used 

United Airlines is beginning to fly the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination around the country ahead of a mass inoculation program expected to begin in late December, according to a report.

The airline has been granted special permission by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to fly increased quantities of dry ice, to keep the vaccine cold.

Pfizer’s vaccine is reportedly being transported by United Airlines in readiness for distribution

United Airlines have been granted permission to fly an increased quantity of dry ice for cooling

United Airlines have been granted permission to fly an increased quantity of dry ice for cooling

Pfizer’s vaccination must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

The routes being flown were not specified by the Wall Street Journal, which reported the news.

The paper said that Pfizer, which has its global headquarters in New York City and has 10 other sites across the United States, plan to make use of refrigerated storage at their final-assembly centers in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Puurs, Belgium.

Pfizer will also make use of storage capacity at distribution sites in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and in Karlsruhe, Germany,

The 150-year-old company also plans dozens of cargo flights and hundreds of truck trips each day.  

United intends on flying chartered cargo flights between the Belgian capital, Brussels, and Chicago’s O’Hare airport to support distribution of the vaccine, according to a November 24 letter from the FAA viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The FAA said in a statement on Friday that it was supporting the ‘first mass air shipment of a vaccine,’ and that it is working with airlines to safely transport COVID-19 vaccines. 

United had asked the FAA to be allowed to carry more dry ice than is typically allowed on flights, in a bid to keep the vaccine cool.

Pfizer's vaccine must be stored in incredibly low temperatures in a facility like the one shown

Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored in incredibly low temperatures in a facility like the one shown

Who will be first in line to be vaccinated against coronavirus?

  • Health workers will be first in line to be vaccinated
  • Those most vulnerable to the targeted infection are a high priority: It includes 12 million critical health, national security and essential workers
  • 110 million people at high risk from the coronavirus: This includes those over 65 who live in long-term care facilities, or those of any age who are in poor health, or who also are deemed essential workers
  • Those living where the outbreak is currently worst will also be a priority
  • Volunteers taking part in the final stage trials of vaccine testing who receive dummy shots will be given the real thing once an injection is created
  • The remaining general U.S. population of 205 million other people would come later
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The FAA said it would allow United to carry 15,000 pounds of dry ice per flight, which is five times more than normally allowed – dry ice is controlled on passenger planes because of concerns about leaks of carbon dioxide, which may not be detected mid air.

Pfizer have created suitcase-size boxes packed with dry ice to keep its vaccine doses cold, the paper reported.

It means they can ship the vaccine quicker, by eliminating the need for large temperature-controlling containers.

Pfizer’s vaccine, one of several being developed, is giving hope to billions of people around the world. 

In the US, the FDA will meet on December 10 in an emergency session, to be live streamed, where they will discuss authorizing the vaccine’s use. 

Pfizer requested emergency use on November 20.

How much vaccine is available and when is a moving target, but initial supplies will be scarce and rationed. 

Last week Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed – the US government’s program for coordinating distribution and administration of the drug – said that 4.1 million doses would be initially distributed. 

Gustave Perna was due to retire this year: instead he has been handed a huge and vital task

Gustave Perna was due to retire this year: instead he has been handed a huge and vital task

Pfizer has been conducting dry runs of each step, from vaccine delivery to opening Pfizer’s GPS-tracked special containers to vaccine storage, Perna said. 

The vaccine will be free for Americans. It was unclear whether those with Green Cards or in the country on visas would be included.

Arguments are brewing over who will pay. The federal government is covering a significant chunk of the cost, but states say they need extra funds to pay for associated costs of monitoring and administering the vaccine. 

Perna said they were aware that the 6.4 million doses were not even enough to vaccinate all of the country’s 20 million health-care workers, let alone the U.S. population of 330 million. 

But he said ‘a steady drumbeat’ of additional doses will be delivered as manufacturing capacity ramps up in each successive week. 

About 25 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine may become available in December, 30 million in January and 35 million more in February and March, according to information presented to the National Academy of Medicine at the end of November. 

Recipients will need two doses, three weeks apart. 

The CDC will meet on Tuesday to decide on recommendations for who should get it first, based on the data and known side effects.

Healthcare workers and vulnerable populations, such as those in nursing homes, are likely to get the first doses, followed by seniors.

It is believed that the general population will receive the vaccine around April. 

Race for a coronavirus vaccine: Nine candidates in final stage of clinical trials

As scientists race to develop a coronavirus vaccine to bring the world back to normal, MailOnline has taken a look at the prospective candidates.

Vaccine trials were halted on Wednesday but it may still be ready this year

Vaccine trials were halted on Wednesday but it may still be ready this year

The Oxford Vaccine

When will it be ready?: The end of 2020/ early 2021. Despite the trials being suspended on Wednesday, its developers and Number 10 remain confident that the vaccine could be ready for use either at the end of this year or early next year. They say a pause is common in trials, and that its development was also stopped in July after a suspected side-effect was detected.

How does it work?: The vaccine works by exposing participants to a weakened common cold adenovirus which has had proteins from the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 attached to its surface. The idea is that the exposure allows the immune system to build an immune response, meaning they are protected if they are infected by the real virus. 

Has the UK secured doses?: Yes, 100 million. The US has secured a further 300 million doses, along with several other countries. These will be rolled out in an equitable manner.

How much does it cost?: AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University, has said it will not profit from the it, but may earn extra royalties if the coronavirus becomes an endemic infection like flu. The US has spent $1.2 billion (£930 million) securing doses, meaning they are worth $4 (£3.10) each.

Biontech, Germany

Biontech vaccine may be ready this year

Biontech vaccine may be ready this year

When will it be ready?: At the end of this year, say researchers. The vaccine is being developed by a German company in partnership with American drugmaker Pfizer. It is recruiting 30,000 volunteers to its stage three trials.

How does it work?: This is an RNA vaccine, a type that has never been approved by regulators before. It will involve injecting a fragment of genetic material from coronavirus into participants. This will expose their immune systems to a weakened version of the virus and, hopefully, trigger a response which will protect them from the real virus.

Has the UK secured doses?: Yes, 30 million doses. The US has also ordered 100 million doses. 

Price?: The US is paying $2 billion (£1.5 billion) for its doses, or about $20 (£15) a jab.

Moderna, US

Moderna vaccine entered human trials

Moderna vaccine entered human trials

When will it be ready?: Very end of this year or next year. The vaccine has recruited 20,000 participants for its stage three trials. Providing no potential side effects are observed, it will then go through to a second test on more patients next month. This means it could be available by the end of 2020.

How does it work?: This is an RNA-based vaccine, similar to the one being developed by Biontech. 

Has the UK secured doses?: No. Reports suggest the UK’s task force has not managed to secure any doses of this vaccine.

How much does it cost?: The US has ordered 100 million doses at a price of $1.5 billion (£1.1 billion). This means one jab costs $32 (£25).

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, UK and France

Sanofi vaccine won't be available this year

Sanofi vaccine won’t be available this year

When will it be ready?: First half of 2021. The vaccine entered phase two clinical trials in September, involving 440 adults. It will reach phase three trials in December this year. There may be setbacks along the way, meaning the vaccine could take longer to develop. 

How does it work?: Participants are injected with DNA coding for the antigens of the coronavirus and a chemical which makes it more potent. It is hoped this will trigger an immune response.

Has the UK secured doses?: Yes. Up to 60 million will be supplied should the vaccine be shown to work.

How much does it cost?: Unknown. This information has not been provided.

Sputnik V, Russia

Sputnik V is safe, according to Kremlin, but it has been criticised by scientists

Sputnik V is safe, according to Kremlin, but it has been criticised by scientists

When will it be ready?: ‘Imminently’. The Russian medical research institute and Russian defence ministry have developed this vaccine. But it has faced serious criticism both inside and outside Russia because results from its human trials are yet to be published. It also hasn’t cleared large human trials, with researchers only launching one involving 40,000 volunteers on 26 August. Scientists say the vaccine has been rushed without proper checks, and could pose a risk to those taking it. The Kremlin began appealing for volunteers for the vaccine this week after a first batch was produced, according to the TASS news agency.

How does it work?: The Russian vaccine works by carrying a piece of the coronavirus genetic code into a participant via another virus. It is hoped this will produce an immune response.

Has the UK secured doses?: No. Countries lining up to try the vaccine include Mexico, which has secured 32 million doses, and Kazakhstan, which is set to buy two million.

How much does it cost?: The price of the vaccine is yet to be revealed.

Sinovac, China

It is not clear when the Sinovac vaccine will be available

It is not clear when the Sinovac vaccine will be available

When will it be ready?: Unknown. The vaccine entered final-stage trials in Brazil in July, and then in Indonesia in August. Results show that while younger and middle-aged people produced antibodies, older people had a weaker immune response. The vaccine was given emergency approval for limited use in July, reports suggest, although it appears to still be subject to testing. It was previously reported as being second only to the Oxford vaccine, but its complete test results are yet to be published. It is one of four vaccine candidates in development in China.

How does it work?: It involves injecting patients with an inactivated form of the virus, prompting their immune systems to develop a response. 

Has the UK secured doses?: Unknown. Reports suggest no doses have been secured.

How much does it cost?: China is yet to publish this information.

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