The first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine left a Pfizer plant in Michigan Sunday morning, starting the United States' most complex vaccine distribution project ever.
Workers near Kalamazoo clapped and whistled as freight trucks were filled with dry ice coolers carrying the pizza-boxed sized cartons of vaccine vials. The trucks left the Pfizer factory shortly after 6:30 a.m. with the first of nearly three million doses.
This set of vials is expected to arrive in all 50 states on Monday, and a larger shipment will arrive Tuesday. The vaccine, kept at sub-Arctic temperatures, will be shuttled by plane to UPS in Louisville and Fed-Ex in Memphis, where they will then be trucked or flown to the facilities chosen to receive the first doses.
The long-awaited moment comes as hospitalizations hit record highs for the seventh day in a row Saturday, and experts worry the holiday season will bring another surge.
Most states are planning to follow CDC advice and give the vaccine first to high-risk health care workers and long-term care facility residents. But some states say they don't have federal funds they need for staffing to give the shots or to track who has gotten the booster.
Still, officials say the biggest obstacle is people's willingness to get the vaccine. But they're hopeful the moment can be a light at the end of the tunnel.
"We are not taking a victory lap. We know that the road ahead of us will be tough," Army Gen. Gus F. Perna of Operation Warp Speed said. "We know that situations will occur. But we will figure it out together, collectively, whole of America approach to solve the problems."