Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said vaccinations could begin for “the most vulnerable” next week, and he expects 20 million people to be vaccinated before the end of the year.
He said, pending FDA emergency use authorization, 50 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of January, saying, “As soon as we have authorization from FDA, we plan to ship vaccines to our 64 public health jurisdictions within 24 hours.”
General Gus Perna, who is in charge of vaccine distribution, did say there may only be 2.9 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first week. Vaccines would then be distributed on a rolling basis.
The Food and Drug Administration will meet Thursday to review the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate for EUA, and preliminary documents did not flag any new concerns or safety issues regarding the vaccine after reviewing the submitted data.
The United Kingdom approved the vaccine and began inoculating citizens this week. Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday.
The vaccine news comes as the U.S. has averaged 200,00 new coronavirus cases per day, and hospitalization rates are at an all-time high.
Azar said on CNN Wednesday the Trump administration is working to negotiate with Pfizer to secure more doses of its vaccine.
The U.S. placed an initial order for 100 million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate 50 million people. The New York Times this week reported that the Trump administration over the summer turned down an offer to secure more doses, and the White House might not be able to do so until the summer due to Pfizer’s prior commitments with other countries. A White House official told Fox News the Times’ story is “fake” and was “planted” by the pharmaceutical giant.
Azar said that combined with other vaccine candidates, the U.S. had options of up to 500 million vaccine doses.