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Pfizer CEO says no concerns about distribution of vaccine

Pfizer CEO says no concerns about distribution of vaccine
© Greg Nash

Pfizer's CEO on Tuesday sought to calm concerns about the distribution challenges of needing ultra-cold storage for his company's COVID-19 vaccine.

"I feel very very confident about it," Albert Bourla said during an interview at a STAT News event. 

Bourla said the company has developed a special isothermic box which will not need to be shipped in refrigerated trucks or planes. 

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"It can be sent with any normal transportation," Bourla said. "Inside it has a thermometer and gps so we can track not only where the box is at every point in time, but also what the temperature is" to make sure it doesn't fall above or below the specifications.

The vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, or nearly minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit, far colder than any standard freezer. 

The boxes hold between 1,000 and 5,000 doses, and will be shipped to vaccine distribution locations in the U.S. and other developed countries overnight as soon as the company receives an address. 

“Once someone has the box, they can keep the doses for weeks in the box, or for months in the super cooler, or for days in the normal freezer. So I think people will be surprised at how smoothly the whole operation will go," Bourla said. 

However, experts have cautioned that the ultra-cold freezers will be a financial burden. In addition, Pfizer's vaccine requires two doses 21 days apart, making it more complicated to deliver the required number of treatments with doses going to waste.   

Pfizer announced initial results from clinical trials last week, leading to accusations from President TrumpDonald TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports MORE and his allies the decision to announce results was based on politics to deny him a "win."

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Bourla had initially said the company expected results by the end of October, which Trump seized on as a political tool for re-election, to show his administration was making progress in combatting the pandemic.

Bourla said does not regret saying a COVID-19 vaccine would be available in October, and denied the announcement was political.

"When the October deadline was said, I didn't have in mind it was three days before the election," Bourla said. "It happened at the speed of science ... I said it because we had a very high probability that we would have results by the end of October. "

Bourla said he expects the company to file for emergency authorization with the Food and Drug Administration shortly, but would not give a specific timeline.