How Georgia is preparing to distribute COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available

ATLANTA — With two companies reporting COVID-19 vaccines that are at least 95% effective and other companies on the verge of revealing their efficacy results too, the world will soon be challenged with distributing one of the most valuable vaccines in history.

Channel 2′s Justin Farmer wanted to know about Georgia’s readiness to get a vaccine to its 10.7 million residents.

In a one-on-one interview with Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month, Farmer asked about the plans in place to move millions of vaccine doses that require special handling.

“Some of the vaccines will have one dose. Some will have two. So there’s a lot of logistics involved. We’re talking to the hospitals and others that can be part of administering it as well as our public health officials,” Kemp said. “They are already planning for the cold storage.”

Kemp said Georgia National Guard Adjutant General Tom Carden will spearhead the efforts to get the vaccine to every corner of the state.

“We have to move at the speed of need and that speed is picking up,” Carden told Channel 2 Action News in September. “That treadmill is moving a little faster every day.”

[READ MORE: Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine is looking 90% effective]

But the size of the rollout is not the only obstacle. The cold storage Kemp referenced will also pose a challenge.

Pfizer has said that its vaccine, found to be more than 95% effective, must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius -- colder than winter in Antarctica.

Moderna’s vaccine, also found to be nearly 95% effective, also needs to be frozen, but at minus 20 degrees Celsius. That is closer to the temperature of a regular freezer.

[READ MORE: How Atlanta doctors helped Moderna achieve promising results in COVID-19 vaccine]

That is where Carrier, an Athens trucking and refrigeration company, comes into play.

A representative for the company said in an email that the company will manufacture refrigeration units to ensure trucks and rail are properly equipped to distribute vaccines.

The company said its systems can maintain very cold temperatures for both long-haul and last-mile transport.

Meanwhile, local health systems are making their own preparations to store the vaccine.

“Supply chain and storage requirements are something we’re spending a lot of time on,” said Katie Logan, Piedmont Healthcare’s chief consumer and strategic planning officer. “We have been procuring ultracold storage freezers for several of our locations that don’t already have them. We’re also working through contingency plans for dry ice and other storage mechanisms, should we need it.”

The first Georgians could get the vaccine before the end of the year. The first doses will go to healthcare workers, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said last month that the vaccine may be available to the rest of the population by March.

[READ MORE: HHS secretary says widespread COVID vaccine could ready by March]

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