Pfizer to coordinate its own coronavirus vaccine distribution

Report: Company, which has created its own "thermal shipper," will bypass CDC's recommended distributor


According to a published report by FreightWaves, pharma giant Pfizer will manage the distribution of its Covid-19 vaccine on its own instead of through the US government’s designated coordinator, McKesson. In July, the US government reached a contractual agreement with Pfizer to deliver 100 million initial doses once its vaccine is approved, along with an option for an additional 500 million doses. Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept at minus 75 ºC (-109.3 ºF) to maintain its effectiveness, FreightWaves notes.

Officials, according to the report, said they expect to provide safety data from Pfizer’s final-stage clinical trials to FDA by the third week of November and, subsequently, apply for an emergency use authorization if all goes well, But there is also skepticism, the report says, concerning whether the US has enough medical-grade freezers at the point of use for vaccines requiring storage at ultra-cold temperatures.

“The responsibility for determining how many deep-freeze machines exist at healthcare facilities has fallen on states because there is no central inventory,” FreightWaves’ Eric Kulisch writes. He notes that uncertainty about the cold-chain capabilities of transportation providers and vaccine administration facilities resulted in Pfizer developing a special cooler, or “thermal shipper,” with real-time GPS and thermal monitoring that can maintain deep-freeze vaccine storage for 10 days if left unopened. Kulisch reports that the shipping container is “about the size of a small suitcase” and uses dry ice to maintain recommended storage temperatures.

In mid-August, as reported here, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designated Irving, TX-based McKesson as the “centralized” distributor of future Covid-19 vaccines. Pharma manufacturers will ship approved vaccines to McKesson distribution centers, which, in turn, will disperse to hospitals, nursing homes, and other points of care.