MILWAUKEE - Millions of doses of the first-ever COVID-19 vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be distributed across the country starting Sunday morning, Dec. 13 -- less than 48 hours after its emergency approval.
Shipments are expected to arrive at their destinations -- including in southeastern Wisconsin -- on Monday.
Milwaukee County health officials hope to distribute the vaccine first to those most at risk -- health care workers, emergency responders and nursing homes. It may take some time before it gets to everyone else.
A historic mark in medicine, the first vaccines will ship from a Pfizer facility in Portage, Michigan. The pharmaceutical company also has a facility in Pleasant Prairie, which they say will help distribute vaccines throughout the surrounding area.
Ultra-low temperature freezer at the Milwaukee VA for storing COVID-19 vaccine
The Milwaukee VA Medical Center was selected as one of 37 VA sites across the country to receive some of the first vaccine batch.
Health officials warn that, even with this progress, the pandemic could get worse before it gets better.
Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management said in a statement to FOX6 News on Saturday:
"It is encouraging to see that the FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine and it will likely begin shipping out to states this week. Milwaukee County health officials and healthcare providers continue to work on the federal, state, and local level to ensure the vaccine reaches our phase 1a health care providers, EMS front line responders, and long-term care facilities as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is an exciting development. However, we must remember the widespread vaccine rollout will not happen over days or weeks, but rather months. We have a difficult winter ahead, and individual safety precautions and responsible behavior are more important than ever."
The next 24 hours will be crucial. UPS and FedEx will be shipping 6.4 million doses across the country, and the vaccines must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius to work.
The vaccine is currently authorized for ages 16 and older. There have not been any studies done on what effect, if any, it may have on pregnancies.
Anyone with questions or concerns can talk to their doctor or pharmacist to get a better idea of when the vaccine may be safely available for them.