Pfizer COVID Vaccine Flown Into U.S. Ahead of Planned Nationwide Rollout in December

Planes carrying doses of a potential COVID vaccine are being flown into the United States, as regulators hope to give approval for a mass rollout imminently.

Chartered United Airlines flights reportedly began carrying doses of the vaccine to multiple areas around the country on Friday, with the first flight landing in Chicago that afternoon.

While there is no authorized vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19, it is hoped the planes will help allow for quick distribution if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does approve the shots for use in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported.

The complicated process of getting vaccines in place is starting: United Airlines began operating charter flights to position doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for quick distribution if the shots are approved via @WSJ

— Aly Sider (@alyrose) November 27, 2020

Pfizer, which developed the shot with Germany company BioNTech, applied for emergency use authorization for its vaccine last Friday. An FDA advisory committee is scheduled to meet on December 10 to vote on whether to recommend the vaccine for approval.

Moderna, which has also released promising data from trials, is expected to apply for a similar licence next week, according to USA Today.

Both companies have released data from late stage clinical trials that suggest their vaccine candidates each have an efficacy rate of 95 percent.

If authorization is granted, about 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be distributed around the states by mid-December, Operation Warp Speed officials said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the U.K. could be set to approve the Pfizer vaccine "within days," according to media reports. The Financial Times reports that the first injections could take place in the country from December 7, if approval is given by the country's regulator next week.

The U.K. has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, while the U.S. has ordered 100 million.

It comes after a third vaccine contender to have reported promising trial results, was forced to carry out further work to test its safety and efficacy.

AstraZeneca's CEO has confirmed the company will conduct further trials before applying for approval in the U.S. after questions were raised over the data.

Making the announcement on Thursday, Pascal Soriot said he did not expect the additional trial to hold up regulatory approvals in the U.K. and European Union.

Scientists raised concerns after it emerged the data had been taken from two separate sub-trials—in the U.K. and Brazil—that were conducted differently to each other and brought varying degrees of success.

One, in which participants received two full doses a month apart, showed the vaccine was 62 percent effective. The other, in which people were given a half dose followed by a full dose, showed the vaccine was 90 percent effective.

United Airlines flight San Francisco
File photo: A United Airlines plane lands at San Francisco International Airport on March 06, 2020. The airline's planes are being used to fly potential COVID-19 vaccine shots into and around the United States. Justin Sullivan/Getty