During an interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes on Sunday, General Gustave Perna was asked how quickly a vaccine could start to be delivered to Americans.
“Within 24 hours,” he replied, confirming that they are ready to go if a vaccine is approved tomorrow by the Food and Drug Administration.
The general confirmed that doses of the vaccine are already stockpiled but would not confirm a number, just that the stockpile will keep growing in advance of “D-Day”.
Potential vaccines by six different drug makers are currently being stockpiled. None have yet applied for Emergency Use Authorisation by the FDA.
Operation Warp Speed is also stockpiling kits of needles, syringes, and alcohol swabs needed to give the shot. There is now enough for 88 million doses.
“My goal [is] tens of millions [of vaccine doses] in December hopefully and we expand into hundreds of millions [of doses in] January, February, March,” General Perna said.
The vaccine and kits will be transported using private companies including FedEx and UPS.
An added complication is that five of the six potential vaccines, including the Pfizer drug whose efficacy was confirmed at 90 per cent on Monday, require two separate doses. They also need to be kept at a very low temperature.
To ensure fair and equitable distribution across the US, state government officials will input data into new proprietary software called Tiberius, which will track every dose from manufacture to inoculation of a patient.
To date, Operation Warp Speed has cost American taxpayers approximately $12bn, a figure that will likely climb to $26bn once distribution begins.
Americans will receive the vaccine at no cost, even those without health insurance.
However, General Perna is concerned about anti-vaxxers refusing to be inoculated, or people feeling that they do not need it, having already had coronavirus.
“We get vaccines to the American people and they don’t take them. Shame on us. ‘Hey, I was already sick, I don’t need it.’ Shame on us. ‘Hey, I don’t believe in vaccines.’ Shame on us. Just shame on us and it does keep me up at night,” he said.
There are also those sceptical of the government’s distribution plan including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
He said on ABC’s Good Morning America that he thought the Trump administration’s vaccine plan would be as flawed as the response to Covid-19 testing.
It took seven months to conduct 120 million tests, the governor pointed out, and so he has reservations about delivering more than 300 million vaccines quickly and efficiently.
As of Monday there have been more than 10 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US, and over 238,000 officially recorded deaths.
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