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Remarks at Vaccine Roundtable with Vice President Pence

Alex M. Azar II
December 3, 2020

Thanks to the President’s leadership and support of Operation Warp Speed, as the Vice President said, we’ve got such a bright future ahead of us. The end is near. But we need you to hang with us. Stay with us a bit more as we bridge to that bright future. Because of Operation Warp Speed, and the President’s and Vice President’s leadership, hope and help are on the way."

Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, for pulling us together, and thanks to Governor Lee, for welcoming us and for your long partnership during the challenges of this year.

I also just want to express our appreciation to FedEx, as the Vice President did. We’ve had a long relationship with FedEx, whether it’s related to our Strategic National Stockpile, or now this next chapter of our partnership in distributing safe and effective vaccines to the American people. We’re just so happy to be working with you.  

Thanks to President Trump’s leadership and his complete support for Operation Warp Speed, that’s exactly what we’re about now, which is the likelihood that we’ll begin distributing safe and effective vaccines to the American people.

I want to give an overview of how that distribution and administration will work.

You know, when we reviewed the early contracts for vaccine development, and we began planning out how we could deliver on the President’s goal—his unprecedented goal of having a safe and effective vaccine by the end of this year—it was clear we needed a modern day Apollo Project or Manhattan Project that mobilized the full resources of the United States government, but also leveraged the private sector.

We had to solve three challenges, as the Vice President mentioned: distribution, development, and manufacturing. So we worked to set up three critical partnerships. First was a partnership across departments, especially with the Defense Department, which brings just tremendous logistics, operations, and procurement capabilities. The second was a partnership of the federal and state governments because the solutions have to be locally led. And third, it had to be a public-private partnership, as every great initiative like the Apollo Project or the Manhattan Project were before it.

The federal government had to do its part, state and local governments needed to do their part, and the private sector needed to do its part.

As our great business leaders here know, people is policy.

So one of my first tasks was to find the right people to run this complex partnership, and we are just so privileged that we have Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who could work to combine the efforts of public researchers and private drug developers. And then the Defense Department contributed General Gus Perna, who could help oversee the incredibly complex logistical operation of distributing and administering vaccines. I’m so grateful for all their work and the work of their incredible teams, and it’s a tremendous honor to get to work with each of them every single day.

We made it a priority to enlist the military because, while HHS has a great deal of public health expertise, we had never executed on a logistics, operations, and procurement project of this scale ever before.

But the key with bringing in the military wasn’t because it meant we could commandeer Army trucks.

Rather, it’s meant using the military’s expertise in working with the private sector and directing supplies where they need to go.

The distribution of the physical vaccines, from the factory to the frontlines, will generally be done by the healthcare distributor McKesson, which works with FedEx and other partners who do the actual shipping. In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, Pfizer will ship directly through FedEx, and we will use McKesson to marry their product up with the vaccination administration kits that OWS has procured and assembled—over 100 million assembled already.

States are in charge of telling us where vaccines should be shipped. They’ve been working on their plans with CDC for several months now, and as Dr. Redfield can explain in more detail, states can use the recommendations of CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the advice of the National Academies of Science, and their own best judgment, to develop the best allocation plan for their own citizens and situations.

States have different circumstances and are in different epidemiologic situations, and state leaders, like Governor Lee, are in the best position to take these general national recommendations and translate them into more precise guidance that fits their state and their conditions.

In general, states will be giving us information about providers to whom we’ll ship vaccinations—pharmacy partners, hospitals, community health centers, and the like.

We’ve reached agreements with pharmacy chains and independent pharmacy networks so that states can have product shipped directly to them, where those private partners will handle administration. That includes, for instance, an agreement with CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccinations at long-term-care facilities – those are our nursing homes.

We’ve paid for the vaccines. We’ve paid for the shipping costs, and the administration costs for these private sector partners will be covered by healthcare payers: private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, and our program to cover COVID-19 expenses for the uninsured.

To give you a sense of numbers, the first week’s allocations for the two vaccines with data submitted to FDA are, approximately, 6.4 million doses of Pfizer and 12.5 million doses of Moderna.

Those are tentative numbers, based on our best assessment of how many doses will be ready to ship when an Emergency Use Authorization could be announced.

We’ll send half of those doses initially, to ensure that the second dose requirements are available 21 and 28 days later. Jurisdictions have received the numbers they’ll get from this allocation in the Tiberius platform that we’ve constructed, which is also where they’re going to tell us where to send vaccines.

After that initial shipment, we expect to make weekly allocations, and we expect, as the Vice President said, to have 40 million doses, covering 20 million Americans, by the end of December.

Finally, if I could just give a commercial message here, I want to mention that many Americans can play a role in our fight against COVID-19 by donating convalescent plasma, a promising treatment for the disease.

If you’re within three months of recovering from COVID-19, you have the chance to donate plasma and you could help save a life.

Over 250,000 courses of convalescent plasma have been administered to Americans to help prevent severe consequences from COVID-19.

Millions and millions of Americans have recovered from COVID-19 in the last several months and they could be eligible to donate. Please contact the American Red Cross or your local blood bank, or go to coronavirus.gov for more information about how you can volunteer and give the gift of life.

Thanks to the President’s leadership and support of Operation Warp Speed, as the Vice President said, we’ve got such a bright future ahead of us. The end is near. But we need you to hang with us. Stay with us a bit more as we bridge to that bright future.

Because of Operation Warp Speed, and the President’s and Vice President’s leadership, hope and help are on the way.

Thank you all for joining this roundtable today, Mr. Vice President, thank you for convening us, and I look forward to continued work with our partners here today to make that bright future a reality.

And now I’ll turn it over to Richard Smith, who is the Regional President of the Americas and Executive Vice President of FedEx Express, for a continuation of some of the details that FedEx is doing for us.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on December 3, 2020