Michigan town proud of plant’s critical role in COVID-19 vaccine


PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The Pfizer Global Supply manufacturing plant in Portage will play a crucial role in manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine.

The plant has been producing the first vials to be used in the U.S. outside of clinical trials.

FedEx and UPS will be shipping this vaccine, with UPS handling shipments to the East Coast and FedEx handling the West Coast.

Within 24 hours after receiving Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization, it will be shipped from a cold storage facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin and the Pfizer plant in Portage using trucks and the shippers’ air hubs in Memphis and Louisville.

This map shows two Pfizer locations where COVID-19 vaccines are already being stored and the headquarters of FedEx and UPS.

The Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine must be kept around minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit and will be put in reusable containers with dry ice and GPS trackers.

Portage Mayor Patricia Randall says the community is excited about helping to begin the end of the pandemic.

“Morale is at an all-time high. Many of my neighbors and friends do work for Pfizer, and they just have tremendous pride that they’re a part of this global answer,” Randall said.

The mayor herself has been personally impacted by the virus with two relatives working as frontline health care workers still trying to recover completely from COVID-19.

“You just see up close and personal how important it is to take the precautions of wearing masks and washing hands and social distancing because quite frankly, our hospitals can’t take another surge. These workers are working well beyond their shifts,” Randall said.

Mazen Ahmad, the owner of Bab El Salam Restaurant, wanted to show his appreciation to the 3,000 people working for Pfizer in Portage, so he offered them free food for their work on the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We have a lot of customers from Pfizer. They come here and we chat with them and we joke with them before when you get the vaccine guys, we get you a sandwich,” Ahmad said.

Just a short drive from the Pfizer Plant, Portage Pharmacist Arun Tandon, owner of Advanced Health Pharmacy, has seen cases increase after he expanded testing into a neighboring storefront being offered by his landlord rent-free.

“The numbers are rising right now. We started doing this testing in end of June, and at that time, we had a few dozen every day, but now the need is in hundreds,” Tandon said.

The country is now waiting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on who will be allowed to the get vaccine and when. It is expected that frontline health care workers and long-term care facilities will be at the top of the list.

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