The Center Square
Tennessee is one of four states chosen by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to help refine plans for the delivery and deployment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine if it receives approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Pfizer announced Tuesday.
The pilot program will help support states’ planning, deployment and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and adapt findings for use in other states to support vaccine distribution. Tennessee released its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan last month.
“One of the most important aspects of our response is building a dependable infrastructure to distribute the approved COVID-19 vaccines as they become available in our state,” Gov. Bill Lee told said Tuesday during a news conference. “Pfizer selected our state because of our plan, because of our ability to build out a strong infrastructure, and we’re thankful for that partnership and what it means to Tennessee.”
Moderna and Pfizer – drug makers that are working to develop, test and seek FDA approval for a COVID-19 vaccine – recently announced their vaccines are effective at a rate of more than 90 percent in clinical trials.
“Although actual data has not yet been published, the companies both report effectiveness in excess of 90%. If this indeed is accurate, this far exceeds what we had initially expected, and is an incredibly encouraging advancement towards widespread herd immunity,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said.
Piercey said Pfizer and Moderna likely will submit efficacy data to the FDA within the next month. Once the FDA has the information it needs, it likely will take several days to a few weeks to make a decision on whether to approve the vaccine. Once a vaccine is approved by the FDA, it could be distributed to Tennessee in as little as 24 hours.
Pfizer selected Tennessee, Rhode Island, Texas and New Mexico for the pilot program because of their differences in size, diversity of populations, immunization infrastructure and the states’ need to reach people in urban and rural settings, the company said. Tennessee will not receive the COVID-19 vaccine doses earlier than other states because of the program.
“This pilot program and our collaboration with U.S. and state officials will help us prepare for broader vaccine deployment in the near future, subject to authorization or approval, as we work to address this urgent public health need,” said Angela Hwang, group president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group. “We are hopeful that results from this vaccine delivery pilot will serve as the model for other U.S. states and international governments.”
Tuesday’s announcement came as the Tennessee Department of Health has reported record-high numbers of new COVID-19 cases, along with increased test positivity rates. Piercey encouraged Tennesseans with or without COVID-19 symptoms to be tested.
“Despite widespread availability of testing, the recent high positivity rates really worried us because they tell us people aren’t getting tested. They’re either not getting tested because they choose not to or because they’re not showing symptoms,” Piercey said.
“Please hear me clearly,” she said. “We cannot control the spread of this virus if we don’t know who has it.”