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Operation Warp Speed official: first COVID-19 vaccines arrive Dec. 14

WASHINGTON --

The nation's first vaccines for the deadly COVID-19 virus that has plagued most of 2020 will be distributed Monday, following yesterday's emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna said in a press briefing today.

Perna is the chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed — an effort led by several U.S. government components and public partnerships to move the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

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"Make no mistake — distribution has begun," Perna said, adding that right now, boxes are being packed and loaded with vaccines, with emphasis on quality control. 

"We expect 145 sites across all the states to receive the vaccine on Monday," the general specified, "another 425 sites on Tuesday and the final 66 sites on Wednesday, which will complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer orders for the vaccine."

Within the next 24 hours, vaccines will begin moving from the Pfizer manufacturing facility to the United Parcel Service and FedEx hubs and then will go out to the 636 locations nationwide. Those sites were previously identified by U.S. states and territories. 

A man in a military uniform and two men wearing civilian clothes watch as another man opens a box. All of the men wear face masks.
Operation Warp Speed
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, left, chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed, and Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna, chief operating officer of OWS, visit a UPS freezer farm in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 3, 2020.
Photo By: Ryan Davis, UPS
VIRIN: 201103-A-AB123-011

"The massive logistical planning our military has contributed to Operation Warp Speed gives me even more pride in the talent and dedication of our service members," Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller said in a statement yesterday. "They have been crucial in bringing a safe and effective vaccine to the American people and in restoring the health of our country."

The Army general said work remains to be done to distribute the vaccine to the nation.

A military officer watches a simulated exercise.
Exercise Monitor
Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, monitors a simulation exercise in Washington, D.C., Nov. 13, 2020. Operation Warp Speed is an effort by several U.S. government components and public partnerships to facilitate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 201113-D-DB155-009

"We remain agile and adaptive to what the situation brings to us," he said. "As we work through many time zones [and] many areas of concern, we will manage the distribution on a day-to-day process."

It is only through the foundation established by the "incredible experts" of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the capability and capacity of commercial industry — including Pfizer, McKesson, FedEx, UPS, Walgreens, CVS and … most importantly, the governors' public health officers and health-care communities — that this plan will be successful," Perna said. "Because of the sheer energy and the whole-of-America approach, I am absolutely 100% confident that we are going to distribute safely this precious commodity … [which is] needed to defeat the enemy COVID."

A person holds a vaccine record card.
Record Card
A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a COVID-19 vaccine record card in Washington, D.C., Nov. 13, 2020. The cards will be sent out as part of vaccination kits from Operation Warp Speed, which is an effort by several U.S. government components and public partnerships to facilitate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 201113-D-DB155-005M

The general emphasized nearly 100,000 Americans have already rolled up their sleeves and participated in clinical trials across America. 

"They were the true first recipients of the vaccine," he said of the vaccine volunteers. "They deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. Without them, we could not be here today. They're true American heroes. This is a monumental week for us all, as we distribute the first millions of doses of vaccines to the American people. But each week that follows, we will have more doses ready for allocation and distribution."

Of the work that remains to be done, he noted, OWS' mission is not complete until every American has access to the vaccine, of those who want it and receive it. "This is our only goal. We work every day to achieve it," Perna said.

Starting Monday morning, as OWS goes through an update on where it stands operationally, the general says he has 100% confidence that OWS will get the vaccines to the American people, and that it will be safe and it will be secure when it arrives. "I want to say thanks to everybody for getting us here today," he said.