Covid-19: First Americans ‘could receive vaccine in mid-December’

Scientific adviser gives update on vaccination programme amid Thanksgiving fears

The first Americans could receive a Covid-19 vaccine in mid-December. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The first Americans could receive a Covid-19 vaccine in mid-December. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

 

The first Americans could receive a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as 24 hours later if the FDA grants approval for it in mid-December, kicking off what would be the largest inoculation campaign in US history.

“Within 24 hours from the approval, the vaccine will be moving . . .” Dr Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser for the US government’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine programme, told NBC’s Meet the Press.

The effort to roll out coronavirus vaccines across the country of 330 million people comes as president Donald Trump has blocked the normal transition of government before the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden on January 20th.

Dr Slaoui said he hoped for a smooth transition of power and did not expect the vaccination effort to be derailed.

The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) outside advisers will meet on December 10th to discuss whether to authorise the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech for emergency use.

Vaccines will be distributed based on each state’s population, Dr Slaoui said. Each state will decide who gets the vaccine first, with the recommendation that priority be given to healthcare workers, front-line workers and the elderly.

About 70 per cent of the population needs to be immunised to achieve herd immunity, a goal the country could reach by May, he said.

As new Covid-19 cases continue to surge, millions of Americans are ignoring federal and state warnings to stay at home for Thanksgiving in order to prevent overwhelming already strained hospitals.

Many people are trying to get tested before the holiday on Thursday, leading to long lines in New York City and elsewhere.

Testing shortages

Testing shortages still plague many parts of the country, with most pharmacies offering Covid-19 tests in suburban Chicago fully booked ahead of Thanksgiving and long lines at state drive-through testing facilities.

“We’re clearly involved now in a very, very difficult surge here throughout the United States and even globally,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, told NBC.

Last week Mr Biden called the vaccination programme a “massive undertaking” and “one of the greatest challenges we will face as a nation”.

The US will have to distribute tens of millions of vaccines while also combating misinformation about vaccines spread on social media. A recent Gallup poll showed only 58 per cent of Americans would get the vaccine, up from 50 per cent in September.

Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said it was crucial to have a seamless flow of information between Mr Trump’s coronavirus experts and Mr Biden’s transition team to avoid delays in distribution after Mr Biden takes office.

Mr Biden warned last week that “more people will die if we don’t co-ordinate”.

The number of confirmed US coronavirus cases has surpassed 12 million and has risen by more than 1 million cases in less than a week for the first time. Deaths from the disease in the US have topped 255,000, with many health experts warning deaths will rise to more than 2,000 a day in the coming weeks. – Reuters

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