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States will receive initial COVID-19 vaccine doses beginning Monday

The initial doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will be delivered to states beginning Monday morning, according to the head of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed.

Gen. Gustave Perna said 145 distribution sites will receive the vaccine on Monday, 425 sites on Tuesday, and 66 sites on Wednesday. The 636 locations are the only places states identified that currently have the capability to store the vaccine at the necessary ultracold temperatures. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine on Friday evening. Once a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel votes later Saturday, the vaccine will officially be cleared for use.

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FDA Commissioner Stephen HahnStephen HahnRedfield says Azar pressured him to revise COVID-19 data reports The Hill's 12:30 Report - Biden's first official trip as president The Hill's Morning Report - With trial over, Biden renews push for COVID-19 bill MORE has denied that political pressure from the White House led to a quicker decision to issue the authorization. According to multiple reports, chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsBiden's no-drama White House chief Ex-Trump aide Meadows pushed DOJ to probe multiple election theories: report Trump working with Gingrich on policy agenda: report MORE suggested to Hahn that his job was in jeopardy if the agency did not act Friday.

But Perna said it would not have made a difference if the FDA had waited to grant authorization until later Saturday.

"We want to make sure that the vaccine arrived at a time period where the professionals are available to receive it and then eventually administer it. Our ultimate goal was to get it there no later than Monday morning," Perna said.

Once the vaccines arrive at the distribution facilities, states will need to transport them to the hospitals, health clinics or long-term care facilities where they will be administered, one of many challenges states will need to overcome to get the vaccine into people's arms. 

Perna said he thinks that as early as three weeks from now, Operation Warp Speed will be able to distribute vaccines directly to local pharmacies, which have capability for ultracold storage. 

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States say they have only a fraction of the funding they need from the federal government to help with issues such as staffing, public education and tracking who has received both doses of the vaccine.

Health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, and other priority groups will be first in line to receive the vaccine. But the administration has not planned for the subsequent vaccination of hundreds of millions of Americans in the general population next year or how to pay for it.

The federal government plans to send 2.9 million doses in the first wave, with additional doses coming every week. Perna said he thinks the administration will still reach its goal of distributing 40 million doses — enough for 20 million people — by the end of this month.

Perna said some states are planning to vaccinate health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities together in one group.

"I know for a fact after speaking with many governors myself personally and then taking state briefs, from all the states slash regions, including the federal agencies ... many of them are going to simultaneously do front-line health care workers as well as long-term health care facilities," Perna said.