US set to approve Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine by next week

Head of public health body warns of ‘rough times’ ahead amid rising infection numbers

The United States is expected to approve Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine next week, a top US science official said yesterday, predicting that 100 million Americans could be vaccinated by February.

Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for the Trump administration's vaccine scheme, known as Operation Warp Speed, said he expects the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "to reach a similar conclusion" to the British authorities, which approved the vaccine yesterday.

The FDA board is due to consider the Pfizer vaccine on December 10th, and the Moderna product on December 17th.

Mr Slaoui's comments come as the head of the country's top public health body warned of  "rough times" ahead for the country, amid rising coronavirus infection numbers.  "December and January and February are going to be rough times," Robert Redfield, the head of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said. "I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that it's going to put on our health care system."


The United States is now registering more than 100,000 cases a day, while more than 2,500 people were reported to have died with Covid-19 on Tuesday alone.

Nonetheless, the CDC issued revised travel guidelines yesterday, suggesting the coronavirus quarantine period could be reduced from 14 days to 10 or seven days. The agency said anyone planning to travel should take a Covid-19 test one to three days in advance of leaving, and three to five days after returning.

Coronavirus package

Meanwhile, president-elect Joe Biden welcomed tentative signs on Capitol Hill that a new coronavirus package could be forthcoming. Contacts between the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate have restarted in a bid to secure a deal before Congress ends for the term.

Speaking at a virtual roundtable with business owners and workers yesterday, Mr Biden said it was crucial any deal includes money for workers who really need it, noting that some of the loans included in the first Covid-19 relief programme this year “went to a lot of people who didn’t need the help”.

Mr Biden heard from people who have been impacted economically by the pandemic. "We need help," said Karen Coffey, a server at a major entertainment arena in Detroit. "We are really suffering. It hurts us when people say… they don't need that extra money, they're just lazy. We don't want to be sitting here on unemployment. We want to be working. We want to go back to the old jobs that we had."

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent