CHICAGO (WLS) -- In the coming days and weeks, COVID-19 vaccine distribution is expected to begin in the United States and around the world, and the Chicago-area could play a pivotal role in that process.
Transportation and logistics experts said that role in the distribution chain will likely benefit residents in the city and surrounding areas.
It's going to be a monumental undertaking to ship the coronavirus vaccine across the country with the necessary handling requirements.
"If you're in Chicago, there's going to be much fewer steps because we're such a transport hub," said Northwestern University Transportation Center Director Hani Mahmassani.
Chicago-based United Airlines is already preparing to play a key role in the distribution of the vaccine. International logistics company, DHL, said it will also be involved with transporting and storing the vaccine, including at O'Hare International Airport.
Despite the coordination efforts, Mahmassani said he foresees challenges when the vaccine arrives at its final destination, particularly storing it at the right temperature.
"There may not be the ability to handle it locally, to store it locally for sufficiently long periods of time to take advantage of that vaccine," he said.
Illinois is ready to receive 400,000 doses when the first batch is shipped, which is said to be likely before the end of the year.
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Health care workers will be the first in line and it is expected to take months before it's available to the general public.
The CDC said it will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday and is expected to discuss who to vaccinate and when.
"Certainly, healthcare workers -- doctors, nurses who are caring for patients in the hospital, including patients with coronavirus --should very much be among those first receiving the vaccine," said Dr. Celine Gounder, member of the Biden Coronavirus Advisory Board. "And then, beyond that, there are other frontline workers, essential workers."
The U.S. government estimates having 40 million doses, which would be enough for 20 million people, by the end of this year if the FDA provides authorization in early December.