According to the Wall Street Journal, United Airlines has begun operating charter flights to help distribute Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine once it will be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The mass inoculation programme is expected to begin in late December, according to a report that The Wall Street Journal attributed to “people familiar with the matter”.
Pfizer has two production plants for the vaccine: Kalamazoo, Michigan and Puurs, Belgium.
The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at very low temperatures (-70°C). Thus, United had sought permission from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to carry five times more dry ice than is typically allowed on flights to maintain the low temperatures required to prevent the vaccine from spoiling.
The United flights reportedly will deliver the vaccine to places where it can be distributed easily once it gets the FDA approval, which is expected around 10 December. United plans initially to fly chartered cargo flights between Brussels Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport, the two airports closest to the production sites. The first flight by a Boeing 777 left Brussels to Chicago on Friday, 27 November.
The drug company plans to use suitcase-size frozen storage in cargo planes and trucks to distribute the vaccine around the world.