The first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine candidate have been flown over to the U.S. from Belgium, a source familiar with United Airlines’ COVID Vaccine Readiness Task Team planning confirmed to NBC on Saturday.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that United commenced chartering flights to send doses of the vaccine to the United States. In a statement to The Hill on Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also confirmed that it was “supporting the first mass air shipment of a vaccine.”
A source told the network the FAA is allowing United to carry 15,000 pounds of dry ice per flight, which is five times over the permitted limit.
Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept at below-freezing temperatures to maintain efficacy of the dosages.
United would not confirm details of the flight to The Hill but said it would “support a vaccine distribution effort on a global scale,” noting its shipment run is through the United Cargo division of the airline.
Pfizer’s vaccine candidate is developed in partnership with the German biotechnology company BioNTech, and last week, Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization (EUA) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccine will be distributed once it is approved.
According to a Financial Times Saturday report, the United Kingdom is slated to approve Pfizer’s vaccine as early as next week.