BY CARL O’DONNELL, Reuters
Shipments of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine began leaving warehouses early on Sunday, heading for healthcare facilities around the United States in a push to distribute the second approved coronavirus vaccine.
A statement from distributor McKesson Corp just after 6 a.m. Sunday said it had begun shipping Moderna’s COVID-19 shots and ancillary supply kits to administer the vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday.
The distribution of Moderna’s vaccine to more than 3,700 locations in the United States will vastly widen the rollout started last week by Pfizer Inc. The U.S. government plans to deliver 5.9 million Moderna shots and 2 million Pfizer shots this week.
But an ambitious target to get 20 million Americans started with their first shot of the two-dose vaccine regimen before the end of the year could slip into the first week of January, U.S. Army General Gustave Perna told reporters on Saturday.
Moderna on Saturday moved vaccines from its manufacturing plants to warehouses operated by McKesson to be packed into containers and loaded on trucks. Shipments will start reaching healthcare providers as soon as Monday, Perna said.
Vials of Moderna’s vaccine were filled in pharmaceutical services provider Catalent’s facility in Bloomington, Indiana. McKesson is shipping doses from facilities in places including Louisville, Kentucky, and Memphis, Tennessee — close to air hubs for United Parcel Service and FedEx.
The start of delivery for the Moderna vaccine will significantly widen availability of COVID-19 vaccines as U.S. deaths caused by the respiratory disease reached more than 310,000 last week in the 11 months since the first documented U.S. cases.
Some states are choosing to use Moderna’s shots for harder-to-reach rural areas because they can be stored for 30 days in standard-temperature refrigerators. Pfizer’s must be shipped and stored at -94º F and can be held for only five days at standard refrigerator temperatures.
Initial doses were given to health professionals. Programs by pharmacies Walgreens and CVS to distribute the Pfizer vaccine to long-term care facilities are expected to start on Monday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will decide Sunday on who it will recommend to be next in line to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The populations under closest consideration include essential workers, those over 65 and people with pre-existing conditions.