WASHINGTON -- With vaccines going into arms across the nation, Operation Warp Speed is on the offense against the coronavirus pandemic that is attacking the United States, Army Gen. Gus Perna, the chief operating officer of the effort, said.
Perna spoke during a virtual news conference today. He said the United States has been playing defense against the virus that has killed more than 300,000 Americans in just 10 months.
"We've been social distancing, we've been washing our hands and we have been wearing masks," Perna said. "It is time to turn the table, and we started doing that last week. We went on the offense. Last week we kicked off the initial distribution of the Pfizer vaccine following (emergency use authorization)."
Warp Speed delivered the first 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to every U.S. state and territory. The general called it a remarkable feat done in spite of snowstorms, the holiday rush and all the other things going on in the United States. "We should all be proud of what has happened," Perna said.
The general foresees shipping 20 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the month.
First responders across the nation began receiving the vaccine proven to be 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19. The general praised the employees of Pfizer, FedEx, UPS and McKesson for their work and efficiency.
The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to the Moderna vaccine yesterday and vials of the lifesaving serum are already moving along the logistics route, Perna said. "Boxes are being packed and loaded today," the general said. "Trucks will begin rolling out tomorrow from FedEx and UPS delivering vaccines and kits to the American people across the United States."
The Moderna vaccine can be shipped and stored at standard freezer temperatures. It is being packed in 100-dose containers. "This allows jurisdictions the flexibility to support hard to reach small and more rural areas," Perna said.
The logistical accomplishment has been massive. "This week in total, between Pfizer and Moderna, we have allocated 7.9 million doses of vaccine and we are ready for that distribution," the general said. "We will ship simultaneously to all 64 jurisdictions and five federal entities. Jurisdictions have already ordered the vaccine and we know it is going to 3,700-plus locations. With more requests coming in every day based on allocations."
Perna wants to establish a "cadence" for deliveries to expeditiously get the vaccines in the arms of Americans. Shipments will begin arriving at their destinations on Monday and continue through the week. "We want the American people to have confidence that the cadence we have established will ensure safe and effective vaccines are delivered to them accordingly," he said. "Every member of Operation Warp Speed, wants vaccines in arms, and we are doing everything possible to [reach] that end-state. But we will not cut corners."
Warp Speed is on the offense, but defense is needed to win any game, and Perna urged Americans to continue to play defense. He urged them to wear masks, wash hands and socially distance. "We are a long way from being finished," he said. "Each shipment of vaccine is another few yards gained."