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First COVID vaccination in U.S. may be given as early as Monday: HHS' Azar

WH coronavirus testing czar says end of pandemic 'in sight'

Updated: December 11, 2020 - 1:40pm

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday that the Food and Drug Administration will grant emergency-use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine within days, and the first shot may be given as soon as Monday.

"At this point, it is really a matter of working out some final details," Azar said on Fox News. "Within the next couple of days, it ought to come out and we'll start having Pfizer ship that vaccine to where governors have told us."

The Trump administration is slated to distribute as many as 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine before the end of the year and as many as 100 million doses by the end of February.

Meanwhile, the White House's coronavirus testing czar, Adm. Brett Giroir, said the end of the pandemic is "in sight." Giroir predicts at least 20 million people could be vaccinated during December, 30 million in January, and another 50 million in February.

"We are in the process of truly what we call microplanning with the states, but the specific vaccine allocation is up to the governors," he said.

Fox News reports that "in phase one of distribution, an estimated 21 million health care workers, including nurses and doctors, are expected to receive the vaccine, along with an estimated three million long-term care facility residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices."

On Thursday, an FDA advisory board voted in favor of advancing a vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech for final agency approval.

Moderna is the second pharmaceutical company to request an FDA emergency-use request for its vaccine.

 Moderna said its data showed their vaccine was 94.1% effective in its late-stage clinical trial, just under Pfizer’s efficacy rate of 95%. The Moderna vaccine was developed in conjunction with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.

A key advantage of Moderna’s vaccine is that it does not need sub-zero storage like Pfizer’s, which needs to be stored at -94 degrees.

Giroir said because of the cold-storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine, it will most likely be given to health care institutions. He expects the Moderna vaccine to be distributed on a much wider scale.

A third vaccine is also in the pipeline. AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Nov. 23 said their jointly created COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be up to 90% effective and the makers claims will be easier to distribute.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Dec. 2 voted to direct that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to get the shots in the initial rollout — once federal regulators authorize use of a vaccine. The recommendation was approved CDC Director Robert Redfield, but governors will eventually have the final say on who gets the vaccine first.