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COVID In Illinois: Expert Says Ambitious Federal Timeline For Getting Out Coronavirus Vaccine Is Possible

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An ambitious timeline has been set up to get out a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

On Tuesday, federal officials said they believe they can distribute 6.8 million vaccines to all 64 jurisdictions - including the State of Illinois - within 24 hours of authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.

It's a tight timeline. But experts told CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey it is possible.

"CVS health has said that they expect to be vaccinating residents of nursing homes - one of the top priority groups - within 48 hours after FDA authorization," said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Vaccines shipped out in a day? People being vaccinated in two days?

Logistics expert Hani Mahmassani, director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center, did not flinch at the plan.

Hickey: "Were you surprised by the timeline announced this morning?"

Mahmassani: "Not really. you're not going to get everything out in 24 hours, but you're going to get something out in 24 hours. And no, I'm not surprised."

On Tuesday, Gen. Gustave Perna, Chief Operating Officer for Operation Warp Speed, said the vaccine allocation numbers went to the 64 jurisdictions and five federal agencies on Friday as Pfizer submitted data for an emergency use authorization by the FDA.

That means they could begin distributing millions of authorized vaccines in just a few weeks.

"We're one week closer to distributing the vaccine," Perna said. "We're one week closer to refining to the exactness that we need to have to do this, and I'm very confident in that process."

The goal is 40 million doses distributed by the end of 2020.

Hickey: "So you think 40 million is realistic?"

Mahmassani "It's pushing the system. It's really pushing the system."

Mahmassani said he does not worry about the big picture transportation, but worries that the distribution at the local level might be less streamlined.

On Tuesday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the state was originally quoted 400,000 doses - but that quote was then reduced to 80,000.

"So we are staying very nimble as we get more info," Ezike said.

As to how the initial round of doses is going to be allocated, federal officials on Tuesday explained it's going to be based on adult population, not on infection rates.

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