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First shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine sent out to states

Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield on Sunday approved Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to patients as the first vials departed from shipping facilities.

Redfield accepted the recommendation of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that the vaccine may be administered to people 16 and older.

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Trucks carrying approximately 184,275 vials of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech departed Pfizer's facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Sunday with a combined 189 boxes of the vaccine expected to be distributed among all 50 states on Monday.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Sunday said he hopes COVID-19 vaccines are administered to patients as early as Monday.

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"We've seen the vaccines go out, we've seen the press reports of hospitals waiting to vaccinate healthcare workers and those most vulnerable according to the recommendations of the ACIP and the CDC. So, it would be my greatest hope and desire that [they] occur tomorrow," Hahn told CNN on Sunday of prospects for administering the vaccines.

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Overall Pfizer is set to deliver an estimated 2.9 million doses of the vaccine this week via UPS and Fed Ex, said Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the White House's vaccine distribution plan Operation Warp Speed.

In addition to the vials that were shipped out on Sunday morning, another 3,900 are set to ship to U.S. territories later in the day followed by another 39,000 to ship on Monday for arrival Tuesday.

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the drugmaker was leveraging manufacturing plants in Michigan, Missouri and Massachusetts to produce and distribute the vaccines quickly.

"I couldn't be prouder of my fellow Pfizer colleagues and partners at BioNTech," Bourla said. "Their historic science-driven effort has delivered a vaccine with the potential to help bring an end to the most devastating pandemic in a century."

The initial rollout of the vaccine is set to prioritize delivering inoculations to high-risk populations such as hospital workers and nursing home staff and residents with widespread availability expected in late spring or early summer of 2021.

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Hahn on Sunday also said that studies are "being planned or in progress now" for testing the vaccine on children, but did not clarify when it might be available for children younger than 16.

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"As soon as possible, obviously with great speed," he said. "Sometimes there are gaps in information and we have to fill those gaps in information after something like an emergency use authorization to get the answers to the questions that you're asking."

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