First U.S. Shipments of Pfizer Vaccine Will Be 2.9 Million Doses

Less than half of the available 6.4 million doses of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine will be initially sent out to states, and 500,000 will be held separately in reserve by the government, according to a top official at Operation Warp Speed.

Gustave Perna, the army general who serves as Warp Speed’s chief operating officer, said on a call with reporters Wednesday that the U.S. plans to distribute 2.9 million doses in the first round of shipments following authorization of Pfizer’s still-experimental vaccine. The rest will be held back to be distributed to states and other jurisdictions when the first people vaccinated are due for their second dose 21 days later.

The half a million shots in reserve will be ready for unforeseen circumstances, Perna said, calling the move “good army general officer planning.”

The government has declined to say in detail how many doses will be allocated to each state and other jurisdictions, including large cities. Shots will be allocated based on the states’ adult populations, officials have said.

“As we get more experienced on quality of control on the production, we’ll get greater confidence, of course, in the level of supply reserve we hold back for that second-dose administration,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during the briefing. “But we will not distribute a vaccine knowing that the booster will not be available.”

Azar said the government still projected there will be enough supply available to deliver 20 million initial doses in December.

States received a slew of numbers in recent weeks on how many doses they should expect without much explanation, making it difficult for them to plan. In late November they were told 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine candidate would be available at first, and 12.5 million of Moderna Inc.’s shot after it is authorized.

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