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COVID-19 vaccine distribution may face challenges

Posted at 6:07 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 20:09:30-05

NEW YORK — As Covid-19 deaths soar across the country, the race to get new vaccines authorized, produced and distributed continues.

Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group said, "While this has been a very short development time period, I think people can be very reassured as to the quality of the vaccine."

The drug maker, Pfizer, announced Wednesday its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective, and it has no serious side effects. It developed the vaccine with BioNTech and the companies said they expect to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization within days.

"If everything goes well and if we have a very organized vaccine supply, that we could have a normal winter 2021, normal summer and winter 2021," BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said,

Moderna, the other developer of a promising coronavirus vaccine, announced this week its vaccine is more than 94% effective. It too, is waiting for FDA approval.

The goal, according to the federal government, is to begin vaccinating millions of Americans by the end of 2020.

"I think they will be able to mass produce it. It's the distribution part that's the logical nightmare, frankly, for something like this," Dr. Poland said.

Rick Bright of President-Elect Joe Biden's Covid-19 advisory board said his team is concerned because the Trump Administration has not communicated to them their strategy of vaccine distribution.

"We know that vaccines don't deliver themselves. It takes a team of people. It takes an entire immunization program to be able to receive a vaccine from the manufacturer and to make sure that the vaccine is kept in the right storage conditions and that it gets into the hands of health care providers who would administer that vaccine," Bright said.

While Moderna said its vaccine candidate can be stored at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for up to six months and refrigerated for 30 days, Pfizer's vaccine needs to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Depending on manufacturing and distribution timelines, hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine may not be available to the general public until spring 2021.