United Airlines delivered the first batch of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport Saturday, positioning the shots for rapid distribution upon pending approval by regulators, numerous sources reported.
The chartered cargo flight arrived from Brussels, Belgium with an unidentified number of doses of the vaccine, according to NBC 5. The flight was one step in Pfizer’s distribution plan, which includes positioning the vaccine strategically ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision about authorizing the vaccine, which is expected within a few weeks of a Dec. 10 meeting.
— NBC Chicago (@nbcchicago) November 29, 2020
“United Cargo established a COVID Readiness Task Team earlier this summer to help ensure we have the right people, products, services, and partnerships in place to support a vaccine distribution effort on a global scale,” United Airlines said in a statement, according to NBC 5.
Because Pfizer’s vaccine requires it to be stored in ultra-cold temperatures, part of Pfizer’s distribution plan are refrigerated storage sites at final assembly sites in Kalamazoo, Mich. and Puurs, Belgium, according to the Wall Street Journal. The FAA allowed United to carry five times more dry ice than is usually permitted on flights in order to keep the vaccine from spoiling.
Storage sites in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. and Karlsruhe, Germany are also being expanded.
American Airlines Group Inc. reportedly is also reportedly testing thermal packaging during trial flights from Miami to South America in anticipation of shipping the vaccines.
Pfizer announced in early November that their vaccine was over 90% effective with no serious safety concerns aside from side effects which included fatigue, chills and fever. Soon after, the company submitted an emergency use authorization to the FDA on Nov. 20. (RELATED: REPORT: Pfizer Vaccine Could Be Sent Out Mid-December)
More than 40 million doses of the vaccine are anticipated to be ready by the end of 2020.