(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s virus emergency czar said he expects vaccine producers to guarantee delivery to sites across the country, as the government seeks to master the logistics challenge of the biggest medical effort in recent memory.
Special commissioner Domenico Arcuri, whose mandate includes coronavirus vaccine distribution, told Bloomberg in an interview that Pfizer Inc., partnering with Germany’s BioNTech SE, is committed to transporting doses to sites designated by the government.
“We have to be certain that the vaccine leaves the plant and arrives where it must be administered without any loss of efficiency,” Arcuri said in the interview at his Rome office.
Arcuri, who also heads state-owned investment agency Invitalia, said Pfizer has guaranteed Italy an initial delivery of 3.4 million doses in January, ensuring that by the end of the month 1.7 million Italians can be vaccinated, as the vaccine requires two shots.
Italy, the original European epicenter of the pandemic, is racing to prepare for a mass vaccination campaign. Governments across Europe have been buoyed by promising results from Pfizer as well as Moderna Inc., but many issues still need to be resolved, including how and where to store and administer doses.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte appointed Arcuri, 57, as emergency chief in March to handle coordination of the virus response and to speed up production of key medical supplies. The premier put Arcuri, who has worked at Arthur Andersen and Deloitte Consulting, in charge of vaccine distribution last week.
“This is a very complex plan,” Arcuri said, calling it the biggest mass vaccination in recent history. First in line will likely be people at risk for professional reasons, and the elderly, with hospitals expected to serve as vaccination centers.
Asked about storing vaccines, Arcuri said Italy would deploy special freezers, dry ice packs and depots as needed. Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept frozen at an ultralow -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celsius) until a few days before it is used. Moderna says its vaccines can be kept in regular freezers.
Arcuri said the government will conduct a campaign to persuade people to undergo vaccination, in a bid to counter widespread skepticism about vaccines and concerns about the speed at which coronavirus vaccines were developed.
Only 37% of Italians would seek vaccination as soon as possible if it were available next year, according to an Ipsos survey published by daily Corriere della Sera on Wednesday. The poll showed 42% would wait to assess the vaccine’s efficacy. Some 16% said they’d rule out being vaccinated at all.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.