Shipments of coronavirus vaccines that arrive in Illinois will be stored in the state's "Strategic National Stockpile," Gov. J.B. Pritzker revealed.
"We're simply bringing the vials of the vaccine that get delivered to Illinois to our Strategic National Stockpile," Pritzker said during his daily coronavirus briefing Thursday. "In Illinois, that's just what you do when you receive - whether it's PPE for distribution across the state or any other items, obviously very important ones as PPE was early on in this, I mean it still is - and so that's what the Strategic National Stockpile is intended to be for."
The governor was responding to reports that Peoria would serve as a "hub" for the vaccine in the state, which NBC affiliate WEEK reported Thursday. The exact location of the stockpile, however, remains unclear.
Pritzker declined to offer details at how the vaccine doses would be secured, but said Illinois' Emergency Management Agency was working with state police and other authorities to "make sure that the vaccines get to where they're supposed to get to."
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Strategic National Stockpile program aims "to deliver critical medical assets to the site of a national emergency."
"The SNS assets are available from the federal government to save lives, prevent disease, and facilitate basic health care service when there is a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or an industrial accident," IDPH's website reads. "The SNS contains drugs, antidotes, and medical/surgical supplies designed to enhance response to weaponized biological agents such as anthrax, plague, and tularemia. The SNS is built on the assumption that a natural or terrorism related biological event has the potential to rapidly strain, if not deplete, local supplies of medical materiel."
The "first mass air shipment" of COVID-19 vaccines arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Friday as airlines and pharmaceutical companies continued to prepare for large-scale distribution.
United Airlines carried Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on board a cargo flight from Brussels, Belgium, to O'Hare Airport, according to people familiar with the matter.
Pritzker said he believes that shipment, however, was sent to a Pfizer facility near Kenosha, Wisconsin, as the company awaits FDA approval.
United Airlines didn't confirm any details about the flight, but in a statement said, "United Cargo established a COVID Readiness Task Team earlier this summer to help ensure we have the right people, products, services, and partnerships in place to support a vaccine distribution effort on a global scale."
Pfizer is still seeking emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The pharmaceutical giant completed its phase three trial and found the vaccine to be 95% percent.