Pfizer Begins Building a COVID-19 Distribution Chain

Laying the Groundwork

Pfizer (PFE) is in the process of building a vaccine supply chain in order to be prepared for if and when a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine is ready for distribution. The pharmaceutical superpower is laying the groundwork to be able to allocate 100 million doses of the vaccine in 2020 and 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

Pfizer is collaborating with German company BioNTech (BNTX) on an experimental COVID-19 vaccine which is in late-stage testing. Pfizer says it could know whether its vaccine is effective by late October, and it could be ready to apply for emergency-use authorization for the vaccine by the end of November. So far, Pfizer has spent about $2 billion on developing the vaccine and making preparations to distribute it.

Unprecedented Circumstances

Pfizer’s vaccine distribution strategy is centered around two enormous, refrigerated storage sites—one in Kalamazoo, Michigan and one in Puurs, Belgium. Dozens of daily cargo-jet flights and hundreds of daily truck trips would move the vaccine from these centers to people around the world. The company has created a reusable refrigerated storage container that can hold 1,000 to 5,000 doses of the vaccine and can keep it cold for up to ten days.

Under normal circumstances, a pharmaceutical company would wait to put a distribution chain in place until its vaccine was approved. However, time is of the essence when it comes to distributing a COVID-19 vaccine, and companies are forgoing normal timelines.

Governments Have Ordered Hundreds of Millions of Vaccine Doses

Governments around the world have already made deals with Pfizer and other companies working on vaccines for if and when their products are ready for distribution.

The US government has ordered 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine with the option to buy 500 million additional doses. The EU has reached an agreement to buy 200 million doses with the option for an additional 100 million. Japan has ordered 120 million doses.

Though there are still many steps to be taken before a vaccine is ready for distribution, Pfizer is making sure it has a robust supply chain in place so that it will be ready to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible if it is successfully tested and approved.

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