The first Americans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine could get it as soon as December 11 or 12, the White House vaccine czar said on Sunday.
On Friday, American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorisation for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and an FDA vaccine advisory committee is slated to meet December on 10.
“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunisation sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I would expect maybe on day two after approval, on the 11th or on the 12th of December,” Dr Moncef Slaoui, the head of the US coronavirus vaccine programme told CNN.
“Hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states, in all the areas where the State Departments of Health will have told us where to deliver the vaccine,” Slaoui said.
His comments come amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
The US has recorded more than 12 million cases and 255,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the highest tolls registered anywhere in the world.
Slaoui said that, if authorised by the FDA, the vaccine could be rolled out the next day.
He also said that based on plans, the amount of the population who need to be vaccinated for life to return to normal is likely to happen in May.
Slaoui said that with the level of efficacy that has been shown in both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, “70 per cent or so of the population being immunised would allow for true herd immunity to take place, that is likely to happen somewhere in the month of May, or something like that based on our plans.”
“Most people need to be immunised before we can go back to a normal life,” he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, offered a more conservative timeline, telling CNN last week that he thinks the nation could start getting back to relative normality by April or July of 2021 and saying he thought that would be possible to achieve by the second or third quarter next year.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that coronavirus cases are “rapidly rising” across the country.
The CDC has urged Americans to avoid travelling for the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26 to prevent increased transmissions.
White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Americans should limit indoor gatherings to immediate households this Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving typically heralds the busiest week for travel in the US. Last year, an estimated 26 million people passed through the country’s airports in the week surrounding the holiday.