The long and deadly wait for a coronavirus vaccine appears to have reached its final hours. The Food and Drug Administration, during a meeting on Thursday, agreed to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and, according to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, the first Americans should receive it in the next couple of days.
The FDA now must grant an emergency use authorization (EUA), and the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations outside of its clinical trial could come following this weekend.
An FDA statement said the process is expected to move swiftly toward an EUA, adding, “The agency has also notified the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Operation Warp Speed, so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution.”
Azar told ABC on Friday, “We will work with Pfizer to get that shipped out and so we could see people getting vaccinated Monday, Tuesday of next week.” Officials have said up to 20 million Americans could see vaccinations this month, assuming the Moderna vaccine also is granted EUA. The FDA vote on Moderna’s vaccine is expected next Thursday.
Azar said Friday there could be 100 million people in the U.S. vaccinated by the end of February, though the majority of the country won’t gain access until sometime next spring.
A few committee members worried about reports of two people vaccinated in Britain who exhibited allergic reactions, and FDA staff said the vaccine would come with a warning for those with a history of those reactions to vaccines or the ingredients contained within.
With its 95% success rate in preventing COVID-19, the vaccine is already approved in the U.K. and has been administered to people there beginning this past Tuesday. Canada expects to start inoculations next week.