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Continued shipments of the vital coronavirus vaccine around the US face delay as a monster winter storm is set to pummel states from Virginia to Massachusetts later Wednesday, even as the US suffered its third deadliest day of the pandemic.
A total of 3,019 people died because of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the third highest total since the first cases were recorded in the US as far back as January.
Now deliveries of more of the first vaccine approved for use in the US, via the Pfizer-BioNTech pharmaceutical partnership, could be held up.
This as Joe Biden, president-elect, said he would get the vaccine in public as a way of helping show the American public that it is safe and effective – while adding at a press event on Wednesday that “I don’t want to get ahead of the line”.
Treacherous weather could bury parts of the eastern US in snow, ice or flooding and cause power outages, hazardous travel conditions, or even tornadoes on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, threatening all forms of transportation being used by the vaccine manufacturing facilities, centered in Michigan, as they fly and truck vials around the country.
Also on Wednesday, 66 sites are expecting a vaccine shipment as part of an effort to dole out nearly 3m doses in the first week of distribution. Army General Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer spearheading the rollout for the government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, had acknowledged that the impending storm “could be a problem”.
As the storm fast approached early Wednesday, delivery giants FedEx and UPS – tasked with transporting the vaccines – were relying on their teams of meteorologists and high-tech monitoring to come up with contingency plans and reduce any delays.
“The safety of our employees is always our first focus,” UPS said in a statement. “Should roadways or airports be closed we will observe all closures and UPS will be ready to deliver as soon as it is safe.”
In Pennsylvania, governor Tom Wolf issued a winter weather emergency proclamation but still assured locals that he wouldn’t allow the storm to thwart vaccination efforts.
“Our team is ready to work collaboratively to address any issues that arise with vaccine transport and distribution,” Wolf said on Tuesday.
As New York City – one of the nation’s first Covid-19 hotspots – battles another serious spike in infections, the mayor, Bill de Blasio, still expected the vaccine to be delivered and administered there, too.
“There’s nothing about the storm at this point that should disrupt the supply of vaccine coming in,” he said.
In less than a year, the pandemic has killed more than 300,000 people in the United States, handicapped entire industries, and left millions behind on their rent payments or without enough food to eat.
A second vaccine by Moderna is also apparently nearing approval by the FDA, and could be approved for emergency use as soon as this week.
But even with solutions en route, the national tragedy is nowhere near over – likely not until spring or summer will the vaccine be readily available to the general public, and amid holiday travel.
Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious diseases official in the US, has warned that the crisis’s worst moments may still be to come.
Meanwhile, as some states re-enact safety measures to combat the fast-spreading virus, workers are taking yet another hit in a year that’s been disastrous for them financially.
After months of partisan infighting, Congress is inching toward a long-awaited $908bn relief package, which is less than half the size of package that Democrats wanted but a lot more than Republicans have argued for.
Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell sounded optimistic, and Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi said they were on schedule “to get the job done”.
Kamala Harris, the vice-president-elect, expressed frustration over the legislative delays, in an interview with ABC aired on Wednesday morning.
“I don’t understand the hesitation. The people are suffering … people here in Washington DC, have got to stop living in a bubble.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: US Covid vaccine shipments face delay as storm expected to pummel east coast | Coronavirus