"Go-time" for distribution of the coronavirus vaccine could begin within days.
The first doses are expected to arrive in Washington state and other states by the middle of this month, if the federal Food and Drug Administration approves the first COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use.
Yet, with a national population of 300 million — and 7 million in Washington — state and national health officials are mapping out the steep task of logistics and transportation to get that vaccine to areas where they can be distributed.
It's not only a matter of getting the vaccines to people. The vaccines will also require specialized storage to keep them viable. Pfizer's vaccine needs to stay at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Washington National Guard tells KING 5 News that it is standing by for any request from the Washington Department of Health or the U.S. Department of Defense, which is running Operation Warp Speed, to help in the logistics.
The National Guard can supply not only helicopters, trucks and other equipment and soldiers, but logistics planning and other resources.
American and United airlines, as well as cargo companies FedEx and UPS, say they have planes with refrigeration to transport the millions of doses throughout the country.
Meanwhile Seattle-based Alaska Airlines says it is ready to help getting vaccines from Anchorage or Sea-Tac airport to remote locations in Alaska. The airport in Bethel alone serves 70 villages.
“We’re ready to do our part," the airline said in a statement. "Alaska Air Cargo and Alaska Airlines are prepared to transport vaccine shipments when distribution begins. We are in close contact with government officials and logistic providers as plans become finalized. With an extensive route network across North America, we are in a position to support this crucial portion of the medical supply chain. In the state of Alaska, we serve 21 communities with scheduled freight service, providing a key lifeline to ensure sensitive medical items make it to some of the most remote regions in our country.”