Operation Warp Speed to cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccine distribution


ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Operation Warp Speed (OWS) will cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution when it becomes available, Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero announced during Wednesday’s CARES Act Steering Committee meeting.

OWS is a government initiative with the main goal to develop, produce, and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021.

Arkansas will not need additional funding and distribution costs are covered.

“We are going forward in such a way that the product will be directly shipped to institutions,” said Dr. Romero, who chairs the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

As more vaccines become available the product will be distributed through pharmacies — large, small, and private, according to Dr. Romero.

Part of the vaccine development has been in tandem for large quantities, and that still needs to be reviewed.

The two companies that are nearly cleared for approval are Pfizer/BioNTech and Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna.

“We don’t need the cold storage [for the Pfizer vaccine],” said Romero. “The shipping containers themselves can be reused a number of times and use dry ice.”

The Pfizer product needs to be kept at a temperature of -70 to -80 degrees, said Romero.

The Moderna product can be stored at regular temperatures.

Dr. Romero believes states with large metropolitan centers will get the Pfizer product, and rural areas, such as Arkansas, will probably get the Moderna vaccine.

The ADH Secretary said he hopes to have a vaccine available for distribution in Arkansas in the next month.

The plan, as of now, is to have six different vaccines. Two now, another set within the next six months and again at the end of next year.

The Pfizer (BioNTech) and Moderna vaccine require two doses, each about three weeks apart. Whether this vaccine would be needed every year is unknown due to the novel new coronavirus, according to Romero.

Both companies plan to file for an emergency use authorization with the Food and Drug Administration.

COVID-19 continues to spread globally with more than 56 million cases, nearly 12 million are in the U.S., according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

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