Only half of the initial shipment of doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will make their way across the country the first week after the vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, The New York Times reported late Wednesday.
Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, told reporters Wednesday that once approved a half batch of the doses — roughly 2.9 million — will be shipped around the country in the first week. Another 2.9 million doses will be saved for booster shots to be administered three weeks later. The remaining 500,000 of the anticipated 6.4 million total doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be held in reserve in case they are unexpectedly needed, the Times said.
Perna told reporters that he had decided to set aside the doses intended for the second shot out of caution.
“Eventually, we will become much more confident in our manufacturing, our distribution process, state handling, et cetera,” he said, according to the Times. “And then the requirement for reserve won’t be necessary.”
An outside panel of experts is set to meet on Thursday to consider whether the Pfizer vaccine, which has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom and Canada, should be authorized for limited use. The United Kingdom approved the vaccine last week. The FDA is expected to arrive at a decision within days about the vaccine which was developed with a German company, BioNTech and found to be 95 percent effective in a clinical trial.
Another vaccine developed by Moderna, could also be authorized within weeks, potentially increasing the number of doses available as vaccination gets underway.
The news comes after earlier reports about supply constraints after Pfizer was forced to scale back more ambitious estimates due to manufacturing issues. The pharmaceutical giant has now said it can provide about 25 million doses to the United States before the end of the year, and has a contract to provide 100 million doses in total by March. The company is in negotiations with the federal government over supplying additional doses next year, although those doss could be delayed until June.
Government officials have said they hope a first dose of the vaccine will have been given to 20 million people before the end of the year.