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How the UK will get Pfizer’s Covid vaccine from factory to patient

The first consignment of a Covid-19 vaccine approved for public use could already be in the UK and on its way to distribution hubs.

Doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s jab were being packed for shipment on Wednesday and could arrive as early as Thursday, according to Sean Marett, the chief commercial officer at BioNTech, making the UK the first country in the world to receive the vaccine ready for administering.

But how will the vaccine be transported from factory to patient? And where is it being manufactured?

The jab is being made by the pharmaceutical company in Puurs, a small Belgian town south of Antwerp. Pfizer will use both air and road transport to ship the doses to Britain from Belgium.

The company has previously said it expects to move around 7.6 million doses a day to airports from its sites in Belgium and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Keeping it cool

The vaccine must be stored at around -70C, but Pfizer has designed an innovative way to transport the vials to overcome this snag. 

The doses will be packed into special cool boxes the size of a suitcase, packed with dry ice and GPS trackers. These reusable boxes can safely store up to 5,000 doses of the vaccine for 10 days. 

UK border to distribution centres 

Once it arrives in the UK, the vaccine will be collected by specialist transport operators and delivered to distribution hubs. 

Pfizer said it owns 40 sites and works with 200 suppliers globally to deliver its products. It is expected to utilise these partnerships in the UK to deliver the doses, but it has not yet been confirmed which companies will transport the vaccines. 

In the US, it has been reported that DHL, FedEx and UPS will all fly the vaccine to regional distribution centres.

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