As many as 24 million Americans could receive a COVID vaccine by mid-January, reports the White House, and up to 100 million by the end of February.
First in line to receive the vaccine will be nursing home residents and healthcare workers, followed by the general elderly and individuals with pre-existing conditions.
The Trump Administration’s ambitious plan relies on COVID vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna earning FDA approval soon. The agency is set to discuss Pfizer’s request for emergency clearance on December 10th and will discuss Moderna’s request about a week later. Authorization is expected to occur days after the meetings.
“Within 24 hours of FDA green lighting with authorization, we’ll ship to all of the states and territories that we work with,” says HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “And within hours, they can be vaccinating.”
Both vaccines have already been stockpiled in the millions in anticipation for mass shipments. According to Operation Warp Speed CEO General Gustave Perna, Pfizer is ready to ship 6.4 million doses within 24 hours of FDA approval and Moderna is ready to ship 12.5 million.
Both vaccines, which require two doses administered several weeks apart, are believed to be more than 90% effective. Logistics for the Pfizer vaccine will be somewhat complicated given its requirement for ultra-cold storage (-100° F) and its 5-day shelf life.
Moderna’s vaccine is a bit more stable; it requires traditional refrigeration (36-48° F) and can be stored for up to 6 months. Both vaccines carry mild side effects including general aches and pains and fatigue.
Rather than celebrate Operation Warp Speed’s progress, President-elect Joe Biden criticized the vaccination plan, complaining that it lacked details regarding “how you get the vaccine out of a container, into an injection syringe, into somebody’s arm.” He said this before he was briefed on the details.
“We have comprehensive plans from the CDC,” said Azar in response. “[We are] working with 64 public health jurisdictions across the country, as our governors have laid out very detailed plans that we’ve worked with them on.”
The CDC has provided $340 million to jurisdictions to prepare for wide-scale vaccines, but public health officials say they need an additional $8 billion.
In the meantime, Americans are facing a surge in COVID cases that has prompted closures and lockdowns throughout the state of California. Friday marked a new record, with more than 229,000 cases announced in a single day. There are 50% more COVID patients in hospitals now than there were one month ago.
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