United Airlines has begun operating charter flights to transport and distribute Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines on Friday. The vaccine is yet to be approved by U.S. authorities, but by starting with distribution now, vaccinations can soon be started. United will be tasked with transporting the vaccine between, among others, Chicago and Brussels.
The Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine is one of the frontrunners in the race for an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Research has shown an effectiveness of up to 95 percent. The vaccine is expected to be approved by regulatory authorities within weeks, should there be no safety issues to arise. The first people could then be vaccinated by mid-December at the earliest.
There is, however, a drawback to this vaccine: it must at any time be cooled to very low temperatures, generally between -70 and -80 degrees Celsius. United has therefore received approval by the FAA to carry five times as much dry ice on board as is normally allowed, the Wall Street Journal reports. This is said to be a maximum of 15,000 pounds of dry ice per flight.