Health

First Coronavirus Vaccine Doses to Arrive in US States Early Monday

The first coronavirus vaccine will begin arriving early Monday in U.S. states after the government approved a vaccine late Friday for emergency use as the COVID-19 death toll approached 300,000.

The chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program, Army Gen. Gustave Perna, said at a news conference Saturday that shipping companies will begin delivering about 3 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to nearly 150 distribution centers, and an additional 450 or so facilities will get the vaccine by Wednesday.While it was unclear precisely who would get the first doses, it has been stated that health workers and nursing home residents will be the priority. Perna said health authorities would make such decisions.

FDA chief Stephen Hahn said at a news conference Saturday just outside Washington he would get inoculated as soon as the vaccine is available.

“With this authorization, we know that our federal partners are already moving to distribute the first doses of the vaccine throughout the country,” Hahn said.

Hahn defended the fastest-ever U.S. vaccine approval process, maintaining the agency did not prioritize speed over safety.

Hahn said news accounts that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows threatened to fire him on Friday if the agency did not authorize the vaccine for use by a certain date were inaccurate.

The first coronavirus vaccine will begin arriving early Monday in U.S. states after the government approved a vaccine late Friday for emergency use as the COVID-19 death toll approached 300,000.

The chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program, Army Gen. Gustave Perna, said at a news conference Saturday that shipping companies will begin delivering about 3 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to nearly 150 distribution centers, and an additional 450 or so facilities will get the vaccine by Wednesday.While it was unclear precisely who would get the first doses, it has been stated that health workers and nursing home residents will be the priority. Perna said health authorities would make such decisions.

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FDA chief Stephen Hahn said at a news conference Saturday just outside Washington he would get inoculated as soon as the vaccine is available.

“With this authorization, we know that our federal partners are already moving to distribute the first doses of the vaccine throughout the country,” Hahn said.

Hahn defended the fastest-ever U.S. vaccine approval process, maintaining the agency did not prioritize speed over safety.

Hahn said news accounts that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows threatened to fire him on Friday if the agency did not authorize the vaccine for use by a certain date were inaccurate.

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Mexico also approved the emergency use of a coronavirus vaccine late Friday, bringing to six the number of countries that are inoculating or plan to inoculate with shots produced by U.S. drug maker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.

Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the United States have also approved the vaccine.

Mexican Assistant Health Secretary and epidemiologist Hugo Lopez-Gatell called the vaccine approval “a reason for hope.” Reuters reports Mexico signed an agreement with Pfizer to acquire 34 million doses of the vaccine, with the first batch expected later this month.Mexico has recorded 1.2 million COVID-19 cases and 113,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Pfizer said it would begin shipping the vaccine immediately while state public health agencies have been planning to begin administering shots as early as Monday.

The U.S. federal government is planning to accelerate vaccinations in the weeks ahead, particularly if a vaccine from Moderna, Inc. is approved soon. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group meets Saturday to recommend whether groups like pregnant women and 16-year-olds should be vaccinated.

The top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Thursday that regulators and drug makers will begin clinical trials in January, testing the safety of vaccines on pregnant women and young people.

Those two groups were excluded from initial trials until researchers could determine if the vaccine was relatively safe in healthy adults before testing it on more vulnerable groups.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved as cases are surging in the U.S. Thousands of people are dying daily, while intensive medical care units across the country are approaching capacity, threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems.

The vaccine was first approved in Britain earlier this month, and British residents began receiving vaccinations on Tuesday. Canada also approved the vaccine and expects to begin inoculations in the coming days.

The vaccine’s approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday came as the United States topped 295,000 fatalities from COVID-19, the world’s highest death toll, according to Johns Hopkins University, which calculates the United States has had 15.8 million of the world’s more than 71 million COVID infections.

Hospitalizations are at record levels in America’s most populous state, California. Los Angeles County reported its highest-ever daily number for new COVID-19 cases at more than 12,000 earlier this week. A public health official said the county is “on a very dangerous track to seeing unprecedented and catastrophic suffering and death … if we can’t stop the surge.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies signed an agreement, the Emergency Medical Team Initiative, on Friday to strengthen the delivery of emergency medical and health services during humanitarian crises.

“We are very committed to working together with WHO to provide quality emergency health services that communities desperately need in times of crisis,” said IFRC Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain.

India said early Saturday that it recorded 30,000 new cases in the past 24 hours. The South Asian nation follows the U.S. in the number of COVID cases with 9.8 million infections. Brazil comes in third with more than 6 million COVID infections.

 

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